Two strands of rhetoric in advertising discourse

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There are two interpretations of rhetoric that are backed by a long tradition: as the theory of argumentation and persuasion, which is how it was born in Antiquity, and as the taxonomy of rhetorical figures, which is the form in which it reigned supreme from the 16th century onwards. In both of these senses, advertising discourse today is the favoured, and in fact almost exclusive, domain of rhetoric. In this essay, we consider the revival in recent decades of both traditions, by Chaïm Perelman and Groupe μ, respectively, and their importance to publicity, in particular to advertising pictures. In both senses of the term, rhetoric relies heavily on the presuppositions that are to a greater or lesser extent shared between the initiator of the message and its recipients. In the case of rhetorical figures, it is the organisation of the world of our experience according to topological properties such as neighbourhood, sequence, enclosure, and the like that has to be taken for granted; in the case of persuasion, more particular socio-cultural values have to be shared. We will see, however, that publicity occupies a paradoxical position from this point of view, since it has to rely on a consensus to have any influence, but must at the same time redefine the objects of our experience. As we will see in the case of Absolut Vodka, it was redefined for the international consumer as part of a rich European heritage, while car service was redefined for a Turkish audience into the likeness of fast food.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-24
JournalInternational Journal of Marketing Semiotics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • rhetorical figures
  • target adaption
  • source adaption
  • rhetoric
  • presuppositions


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