parts of a speech (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

parts of a speech in rhetoric
Regarding "the order and arrangement of the facts and topics" in a speech, Cicero said, "There are two methods: the one suggested by the nature of the cause; the other by the judgment and skill of the orator" (De Oratore, 55 BC). (Cicero Denouncing Catiline, engraved by B.Barloccini, 1849/Getty Images)

Definition

In classical rhetoric, the parts of a speech are the conventional divisions of a speech (or oration)also known as arrangement.

Roman orators recognized as many as seven parts:

In contemporary public speaking, the major parts of a speech are often identified more simply as the introduction, body, transitions, and conclusion.

See Examples and Observations below.

(Don't confuse the parts of a speech in rhetoric with the parts of speech in grammar.)


Examples and Observations

  • "From late fifth through late second century BCE, three traditions of handbooks characterized theory and instruction in rhetoric. Handbooks in the earliest tradition organized precepts in segments devoted to the parts of a speech. . . . [A] number of scholars have proposed that early handbooks in this tradition typically dealt with four speech parts: a proem that secured an attentive, intelligent, and benevolent hearing; a narration that represented facts of the judicial case favorable to the speaker; a proof that confirmed the speaker's claims and refuted the arguments of the opponent; and an epilogue that summarized the speaker's arguments and aroused emotions in the audience favorable to the speaker's case."
    (Robert N. Gaines, "Roman Rhetorical Handbooks," in A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, edited by William J. Dominik and Jon C. R. Hall. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007)
     
  • "The parts of a speech (partes orationis) are the exordium or opening, the narratio or statement of facts, the divisio or partitio, that is, the statement of the point at issue and exposition of what the orator proposes to prove, the confirmatio or exposition of arguments, the confutatio or refutation of one's opponent's arguments, and finally the conclusio or peroration. This six-fold division is that given in De Inventione and Ad Herrenium, but Cicero tells us that some divided into four or five or even seven parts, and Quintilian regards partitio as contained in the third part, which he calls probatio, proof, and thus is left with a total of five."
    (M. L. Clarke and D. H. Berry, Rhetoric at Rome: A Historical Survey. Routledge, 1996)
     
  • Classical Divisions in Prose
    "The classical tradition of oratory was carried on for a great many centuries in oral performance. It was also carried on in written texts, most purely in written works that take the form of orations. Although they were not intended for oral performance, they translate features of oratory to the written word. Including some sense of the writer and the reader.

    "Erasmus's Praise of Folly (1509) is a model example. It follows a form of the classical tradition, with Exordium, Narration, Partition, Confirmation, and Peroration. The orator is Folly, and she steps forward to speak to the crowded assembly that is her audience--all of us readers."
    (James Thorpe, The Sense of Style: Reading English Prose. Archon, 1987)
     
  • The Classical Form of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal"
    "The essay is organized in the manner of a classical oration, as follows:
    Exordium - Paragraphs 1 through 7
    Narration - Paragraphs 8 through 16
    Digression - Paragraphs 17 through 19
    Proof - Paragraphs 20 through 28
    Refutation - Paragraphs 29 through 30
    Peroration - Paragraphs 31 through 33"
    (Charles A. Beaumont, Swift's Classical Rhetoric. University of Georgia Press, 1961)
     
  • Transitions in Contemporary Speeches
    "To move from one to another of the three major parts of a speech (i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion), you can signal your audience with statements that summarize what you've said in one part and point the way to the next. For example, here is an internal summary and a transition between the body of a speech and the conclusion:
    "I've now explained in some detail why we need stronger educational and health programs for new immigrants. Let me close by reminding you of what's at stake."
    . . . Transitions are vital to effective speaking. If the introduction, body, and conclusion are the bones of a speech, the transitions are the sinews that hold the bones together. Without them, a speech may seem more like a laundry list of unconnected ideas than like a coherent whole."
    (Julia T. Wood, Communication in Our Lives, 6th ed. Wadsworth, 2012)