Arguments and Argumentation: Some Terminology

The beginning of education is the examination of terms. Antisthenes

This list of terms, essential to argumentation, is by no means exhaustive or intended to be overly technical. Many of these terms will come up again and again in the realm of public and private discourse, whether that discourse be political, academic, religious, philosophical and so on. Those which are less often employed by actual arguers are useful for analytical purposes.

Academic audience: an audience comprised of scholars, whether in a given field or across disciplines

Adherence: here, support for an argument; agreement, conviction or persuasion

Alethiology: the study of truth

Anecdote: a story, often arising from personal experience, not previously made part of formal record and study

Arrangement (dispositio): the ordering of arguments in ways that will likely prove effective before a given audience; considered the second canon of rhetoric

Assertion: a claim, considered apart from its offered justification or reasoning

Audience: the person or people for whom discourse is intended or before whom it is delivered

Claim: a proposition or statement, usually including its right to be recognized over other, competing statements or propositions; may be of fact, definition, value or policy

Composition: here, the putting together of words (and sometimes images) to produce a text

Controversy: a matter which is uncertain and over which opinions are divided

Deliberative rhetoric: speech arguing for future actions and policies

Demonstration: showing a claim to be reasonable by argumentation

Discourse: characteristic ways of speaking proper to a group or organization; the way of speaking limits what can be said, who may speak and, on a rhetorical level, what an object is; also, the act of speaking or writing or the resulting speech or text

Discourse community: a group of people bound by common ways of speaking and approaching the world within sociological, political, religious, familial or professional frameworks

Enthymeme: a syllogism in which the major premise is unstated because it is assumed (as a commonplace)

Epideictic rhetoric: celebratory speech, chiefly for the praise of virtues and successes. Involves the praise of one figure or event and/or the deunciation of another figure or event

Ethos: the credibility of the speaker/writer as established through the use of language in the speech or text

Example: an instance which may be taken as a useful illustration of a statement or principle

Fallacy: in argumentation, an error in reasoning; may be formal or informal

Fallible sign: a sign which predicts or indicates only most or part of the time; not a certain indicator

Forensic rhetoric: rhetoric which seeks to ascertain the truth of a past event; often used in juridical settings

Generalization: reasoning that what is true of a class of things is true of its members or that what is true of several members of a class is true of the whole class. A common warrant, though it may be fallacious

Genre: a type of discourse arising usually from similar communicative needs and situations; some scholars argue that genres should refer to the social situation itself, as well as the form of discourse in which it may be found

Grounds: evidence, the reasons for which a claim is made

Heterogeneous audience: an audience whose members may be considered to have diverse backgrounds, experiences and expectations; the individuals may be considered to have less in common with respect to the particular argument being made than they have differences

Homogeneous audience: an audience whose members for the purposes of considering the argument may have more backgrounds, experiences and expectations in common than they have differences

Infallible sign: a sign which never fails; may not even exist

Interlocutor: a participant in a dialogue

Invention (inventio): in rhetoric, finding what arguments will likely prove effective before a given audience; considered the first canon of rhetoric

Justification: reasons offered for a claim; is probabilistic and, as such, should be distinguished from proof (positive)

Kairos: the "right" or "appropriate" time for an activity; in rhetoric, the opportune time for speaking or writing; see rhetorical situation

Loaded terminology (or loaded language): the use of emotionally charged language to skew an audience's view of its referent

Logic: the nature and study of how statements are connected or related to each other

Logos: an appeal to logic; may be sound or faulty

Pathos: an appeal to the interests and emotions of the audience

Persuasion: the attempt to influence by means of argument to a belief, opinion or action; also, the resulting belief or opinion of such influence

Proof (positive): here, support which renders an argument's conclusion absolutely certain; to be distinguished from justification

Register: a variety of language employed according to social and situational context

Rhetoric: the art of persuasion or the product of such art; in Aristotle, the ability to find which arguments will be effective in any given situation

Rhetorical constraint: any factor which limits and so enables the production of discourse along certain lines; can be audience, time limits, conventions of genre one seeks to satisfy, and many other things all acting simultaneously

Rhetorical move: term coined by John Swales, a rhetorical move is the "tactic" used by a rhetor to get from one "place" to another within a specimen of discourse: they may be global or local

Rhetorical situation: a complex of factors involving speaker, audience, occasion, subject matter and so on which invite or seem to invite rhetorical engagement

Sign: something which predicts or indicates the presence of something else

Stasis: literally, a "stop" or "point of rest." Refers to momentary halts in argumentation to identify the main issue(s) in dispute and so rid the discussion of irrelevant and distracting material.

Statistics: data which have been processed into numerical form

Style (elocutio): a "way" of writing that emerges from the combination of syntax (sentence structure) and diction (word choice); considered the third canon of rhetoric

Syllogism: an argument in which two premises, a "major" and a "minor," lead to a claim (conclusion)

Thesis: the central claim being established in an argument; literally, what is being "laid down"

Tone: the author's (or text's) inferred attitude toward the subject matter and the audience

Topos (plural, topoi): literally, a "place." In Aristotle, a "place" in the mind where rhetors go to find suitable arguments; has come to mean an argument identifiable as a certain type

Warrant: that which authorizes or legitimates the connection between a statement or proposition and the evidence used to support it; may be of generalization, analogy, sign, causality, authority or commonplace (or principle)