We call argumentation the discourse techniques that aim to obtain the auditory´s support to the theses that are presented to his assent. The addressor wants the addressee to think or behave as he wants.
The argumentation aims to convince or persuade someone
1. We convince when the addressor appeals to the addressee´s common sense or logical reasoning.
2. We persuade when the addressor appeals to the addressee´s feelings and emotions.
The argumentative discourse is defined by the whole of strategies a speaker has to address his auditory so as to modify his opinion about an object or situation. He has to conquer the auditory´s action.
The discourse can be scientific, pedagogic, political or legal.
Arguments are the reasons which are used to prove a statement or to convince someone of the convenience or necessity of what is being stated or negated. There are always 2 or more points of view of the topic which is being discussed. The addressor defends one of them and rejects the others.
As argumentation is defined by the presence of an auditory, we have to study the discourse in relation to the social relationships it represents. So we characterize it by:
1. Its intentions (text analysis)
2. The speaker- auditory interaction (psycho-social conditions). There must be a contact between these 2 participants.
3. Its efficiency, that is, to convince the auditory or establish the fairness of the reasoning.
Every argumentation has a speaker who presents a discourse which can be conveyed in written or oral form, an auditory to whom the argumentation is addressed and an aim which is the support to the thesis, which must create a disposition to action and perhaps an immediate action.
Characteristics of the argumentation:
What distinguishes the argumentation from other types of discourse is that it is always relative to a situation and inserted in a situation.
An argumentation constructs, reconstructs, that is, transforms. The argumentation is presented to us a product at the same time that this product is constituted in a process.
Rhetoric notions of the argumentation:
1. Distinction between facts and truth. They are classified by levels. Truths have more consistency than facts. We have to find facts and truths in a reality that can be investigated in he external world, but sometimes they can have an independent existence.
2. The suppositions which are judgements previous to discourse. We have to distinguish them from facts.
3. The values there are in ethic tradition. The notion of hierarchy we associate to values which considers them according to order of preference or importance that discourse gives to them. It is very important to establish a hierarchy in order to get a conclusion.
4. The logical mechanisms of argumentation, that is, the mechanisms of reasoning. The process of reasoning can be made in two different ways:
ü Induction: It goes from the particular to the general. It is based on facts which have been witnessed or acquired by talking to other people or reading.
ü Deduction: It goes from the general to the particular. It is based on propositions.
5. It must be structured in propositions or theses that constitute a reasoning and show directly or indirectly the speaker´s position (critics, judgements, assertions). The thesis must be well-formulated by means of propositions. When formulation the propositions, we have to take into account the following precautions:
ü We have to formulate it by means of grammatical sentences which must be complete.
ü We have to avoid subjectivisms, that is clichés such as I think, I believe, In my opinion.
ü If it consists of 2or more members, they must be closely connected.
ü We must avoid metaphors and other similar stylistic devices
ü We have to formulate it by means of statements, avoiding questions, because the thesis is always the answer to a question.
6. They always refer to something that can be individualized or not (a man, a group, a given state of society, of science, of the general opinion) and it can be explicitely shown in the discourse or not (quotations, allusions to the person, references about a situation).
Three steps in the argumentative text:
- The invention or gathering of facts, that is, the topic which is going to be dealt with.
- The disposition or order of the material which is going to be explained with all the theses and propositions.
- The elocution or linguistic expression of the text. Language has to be clear, simple and appropriate. This is not incompatible with the possibility that the author explains his point of view in the different aspects of what he is explaining: respect, admiration, irony, humour, support, rejection etc.
ü Clarity and precision: It is important that the auditory doesn´t lose the thread. The understanding of the text has to de done easily and quickly without any kind of misunderstanding.
ü Simplicity: The style and language has to be simple without any ornaments. It is advisable to use short sentences instead of subordinate clauses.
ü Concision: We have to avoid to give unnecessary lengthening to what we are conveying. It is better to say more with less number of words. We have to get to the point and not beating about the bush.
What does the argumentative discourse talk about?:
- Objects: These objects can be physical referred to sth. concrete, events that have already taken place or are going to take place, attitudes, behaviours etc.
The selection of these objects, the kind of relationship there is going to be among them, make that these objects have to be presented to the auditory in situations that will be established in the discourse and not the ones in reality, even if they are presented as real.
- Actions: The situations in which these objects are presented can be located in different ways according to the referents that are used (f.i: temporal, spatial). At this level we are going to establish a structure of hypothesis about the real. The discourse in this step of constitution can be considered not only referred to objects but also to actins and concepts.
How does the argumentation talk about?:
- Lexical elements: The sense of the words used by the speaker can help to understand the discourse and also to precise the field of activity in which we are placed (use of certain vocabulary).
But more important than words we have the semantic categories to which they refer and their order in the sentence.
- Sources of discourse: Who is talking can be animated or inanimated (people, animals, objects). The speaker can show his location openly in the discourse or just refer to it.
There will be quotations if we give the word to someone else and so we will have the exterior reference of an authority. We have to delimit who is talking about and what he is talking about.
- The enunciation forms: There are different kinds of relationship that can be established among the elements:
ü The forms of predication define the ways of constructing the objects in the discourse (agent, patient, process, qualifiers). The presentation of the relationships among elements on the part of the speaker can also vary: affirmation, negation, question, order etc.
It is very different to establish what is really true because it exists or what is possible or probable.
ü The forms of interrogation can also modulate the level of certainty, but also the division of the argumentation in separate elements. The strategies are delimited according to the structures about the real and the hypothetic-deductive procedures used by the speaker.
- Kind of operators: They can be assertion or negation and they establish or reject the information (hypothesis or facts). The modality operators will enable the speaker to modulate the certainty values or modify the relationship among the elements. These operations can be done by modal verbs: We can distinguish the following modalities: possible-probable-necessary-capacity-duty.
- The processes: Each way of enunciating has its own mood: indicative, subjunctive, imperative. The voice active and passive determines the location of agent and patient. We also have to distinguish between verbs of state and process (stative and dynamic). The tenses are very important and also the aspect (perfective and non- perfective). The verb gives us different kind of information (facts, events), it gives a quality (be, seem), defines an element.
At a semantic level, we distinguish the following functions:
ü Agent: determined or impersonal.
ü Object: passive, active.
ü Circumstance: place, time , cause, means.