Rhetorical Move

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms - Definition and Examples

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(1) In rhetoric, a general term for any strategy employed by a rhetor to advance an argument or strengthen a persuasive appeal.

(2) In genre studies (in particular, the field of institutional discourse analysis), a term introduced by linguist John M. Swales to describe a particular rhetorical or linguistic pattern, stage, or structure conventionally found in a text or in a segment of a text.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Rhetorical Move: Definition #1
    "Dilip Gaonkar notes that the rhetoric of science is an argument a fortiori: 'If science is not free of rhetoric, nothing is.' Yes. The rhetorical studies of biology, economics, and mathematics over the past twenty years have used this tactic, reading even scientific texts rhetorically. Gaonkar does not like it, not one bit. He wants to keep Science distinct from the rest of culture. He wants rhetoric to stay in its cage. He is a Little Rhetoric guy. . . .

    "Gaonkar's rhetoric of proof throughout is merely assertive; he hasn't any arguments worthy of the name. He depends on bluster, a 'merely rhetorical' move: if you make assertions at length, portentously, with ample throat clearing, you can depend on fooling some of the people some of the time."
    (Deirdre McCloskey, "Big Rhetoric, Little Rhetoric: Gaonkar on the Rhetoric of Science." Rhetorical Hermeneutics: Invention and Interpretation in the Age of Science, ed. by Alan G. Gross and William M. Keith. State Univ. of New York Press, 1997)
  • "The initial rhetorical move of philosophy (Plato's move) was to assume the existence of a metalanguage outside of 'normal' language that would be a superior form of language. As Foucault (1972) points out, the claim to truth is the essential rhetorical move authorizing philosophy: Philosophy creates the distinction between 'true' and 'false' language. . . .

    "Rhetoric's view is to see philosophy language as not ontologically different, but rather just different, a kind of language still subject to rhetoric with its own conventions and rules, historically constituted and situated, and with its own disciplinary (and hence, institutional) parameters. Although philosophy distrusts nomos, rhetoric invests nomos, local language, with power. Why should rhetoric have any more right than philosophy to make this move? No more right--the point is that rhetoric recognizes it as a rhetorical move, its own move included."
    (James E. Porter, Rhetorical Ethics, and Internetworked Writing. Ablex, 1998)
  • "The de-rhetoricization of historical thinking was an effort to distinguish history from fiction, especially from the kind of prose fiction represented by the romance and the novel. This effort was, of course, a rhetorical move in its own right, the kind of rhetorical move that Paolo Valesio calls 'the rhetoric of anti-rhetoric.' It consisted of little more than a reaffirmation of the Aristotelian distinction between history and poetry--between the study of events that had actually occurred and the imagining of events that might have occurred, or could possibly occur--and the affirmation of the fiction that the 'stories' historians tell are found in the evidence rather than invented."
    (Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. The John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1987)
  • Rhetorical Move: Definition #2
    "[T]he study of genres in terms of rhetorical moves was originally developed by [John M.] Swales (1981, 1990, and 2004) to functionally describe a part or section of Research Articles. This approach, which seeks to operationalise a text into particular segments, originated from the educational objective of supporting the teaching of academic writing and reading for non-native speakers of English. The idea of clearly describing and explaining the rhetorical structure of a particular genre and of identifying each associated purpose is a contribution that can assist beginners and novices who do not belong to a specific discourse community.

    "The move analysis of a genre aims to determine the communicative purposes of a text by categorising diverse text units according to the particular communicative purpose of each unit. Each one of the moves where a text is segmented constitutes a section, revealing a specific communicative function, but this is linked to and contributes to the general communicative objective of the whole genre."
    (Giovanni Parodi, "Rhetorical Organisation of Textbooks." Academic and Professional Discourse Genres in Spanish, ed. by G. Parodi. John Benjamins, 2010)
  • "[I]n recent publications, reviewing previous literature and incorporating citations to other works is by no means restricted to the second half of the opening (M1) move but can occur throughout the introduction and indeed throughout the article as a whole. As a result, literature review statements are no longer always separable elements in either placement or in function and so can no longer be automatically used as signals for independent moves as part of a move analysis."
    (John Swales, Research Genres: Explorations and Applications. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004)
  • "The wide variation in delineating the extent of a move may be attributable to the use of two different units of analysis. The approach of Swales (1981, 1990) is the most consistent since he considers moves as discourse units rather than lexicogrammatical units. However, he does not address the question of how move boundaries can be determined. In dealing with this difficult problem, others have tried to align move boundaries with lexicogrammatical units."
    (Beverly A. Lewin, Jonathan Fine, and Lynne Young, Expository Discourse: A Genre-Based Approach to Social Science Research Texts. Continuum, 2001)