Speaker and Audience Construction

Jeanne Fahnestock

in Rhetorical Style

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199764129
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918928 | DOI:
Speaker and Audience Construction

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Language evolved for communication, so it has “built in” features that respond to the givens of human discourse. Part III, beginning with this chapter, covers the language choices that acknowledge the immediacy of discourse, beginning with the partners in communication: the speaker or writer and the hearer or reader. The real roles of source and recipient are also constructed by the language of a text, whether or not they are made explicit. Extreme cases of fashioning the mutual roles of speakers and recipients are modeled in the salutations recommended in medieval letter-writing manuals. Typically, the role construction in a text can be made explicit when the personal pronouns creating rhetorical agents and audiences are used: I, you, we. Each of these choices has special uses and there are corresponding genres of fictional address. When there are no explicit references to the speaker and audience, the text may seem impersonal or objective, but speaker/audience roles are still assigned. The goal of discourse can be to change the relationship, or what Goffman called the footing, between the speaker and the addressee, and the constructed footing can in turn serve what Burke called the persuasive identification between the arguer and the audience. In rhetorical manuals, striking methods of speaker/audience construction were noted. The apostrophe involves specifically calling on or hailing an addressee. Arguers can also partition their audiences, dividing them into subgroups and making the whole group aware of its differences. They can also speak frankly to one subgroup in the presence of another, or even try to purge the audience and purify the remainder. Finally, arguers can ask questions in a variety of ways that turn audiences into cooperative responders.

Keywords: rhetorical agents; personal pronouns; Goffman; footing; identification; apostrophe; partition; purge; frankness of speech; rhetorical question; rogatio; aporia

Chapter.  13899 words. 

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

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