Rhetorical effects

Some linguistic tools derive their effect from rational elements, and/or they may trigger subliminal reflexes because of their particular features, be these logical, semantic, (morpho)syntactic or phon(aesth)etic in nature. Such tools, which aim more directly at achieving a certain impact, include:

  • - general rhetorical devices, e.g., the rhetorical question (which implies its own answer), exaggeration (hyperbole), the stringing together (perhaps incrementally) of three elements, etc.;
  • - devices based on one of the four change categories of classical rhetoric (adiectio (addition), detractio (omission), immutatio (permutation) and transmutatio (transposition), which are possible on different linguistic levels; a permutation, for instance, functions both morphologically and syntactically;
  • - tropes, especially metaphors and metonymy (see Chapter 18 in this volume).

The most immediate support in this area comes in the form of sets of text modules, marketed under catchy titles such as “Perfect phrases for executive presentations” (Perlman 2006: other volumes in the same series cover subjects or groups from “fundraising” to “landlords and property managers”). However, it is questionable how far unwieldy text blocs are helpful in dealing with situations that demand spontaneity and quick reactions, although they may have some utility in the context of foreign language didactics.

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