Hortatory Discourse in Rhetoric

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Peter Finch as news anchor Howard Beale delivering a hortatory address in Network (1976)
Peter Finch as news anchor Howard Beale delivering a hortatory address in Network (1976). (United Artists/Getty Images)

Speech or writing that urges or commands an audience to follow (or not follow) a particular course of action. It is also called hortatory rhetoric.

Examples of Hortatory Speeches:

  • "I want you to get mad!
    "I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
    "All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.
    "You've gotta say, 'I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!'
    "So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'"
    (Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, 1976)
  • "Please forget that we are anarchists. Forget that it is claimed that we propagated violence. Forget that something appeared in Mother Earth when I was thousands of miles away, three years ago. Forget all that, and merely consider the evidence. Have we been engaged in a conspiracy? Has that conspiracy been proven? Have we committed overt acts? Have those overt acts been proven? We for the defense say they have not been proven. And therefore your verdict must be not guilty."
    (Emma Goldman, address to the jury on July 9, 1917)
  • "Young America, dream. Choose the human race over the nuclear race. Bury the weapons and don't burn the people. Dream--dream of a new value system. Teachers who teach for life and not just for a living--teach because they can't help it. Dream of lawyers more concerned about justice than a judgeship. Dream of doctors more concerned about public health than personal wealth. Dream of preachers and priests who will prophesy and not just profiteer. Preach and dream!"
    (Jesse Jackson, speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 18, 1984)


  • Discourse as a Play: Narrative, Expository, and Hortatory
    "[A] metaphor that has proven particularly useful in several theoretical approaches to discourse and communication . . . is summarized as 'discourse is a play.' The idea is that a person who intends to communicate an idea is like the director of a play. The speaker has an image in mind, and uses linguistic tools to encourage some audience to create a similar image in their minds. . . . The scene may be an actual or fictional series of events occurring over time, in which case we may say that the discourse produced is narrative. Or the scene may involve a description of some concrete thing or abstract idea, in which case the speaker engages in expository discourse. Sometimes a speaker will use language to describe ways the speaker would like the audience to behave. This would be called hortatory discourse."
    (Thomas E. Payne, Understanding English Grammar. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011)
  • "In hortatory discourse, the composer of the discourse is especially likely to get involved with his subject matter and his audience and to urge on them a certain course of conduct by virtue of the prestige invested in this person."
    (Robert E. Longacre, The Grammar of Discourse, 2nd ed. Springer, 1996)
  • "Hortatory discourse can be seen as valuable in its own right. It can be seen as having a different purpose from the conveying of factual information. And the argumentation that is used to fulfill it, can be seen as legitimate in its own right, as a type of discourse distinct from information-seeking discourse."
    (Douglas Walton, Ethical Argumentation. Lexington Books, 2003)

Pronunciation: HOR-teh-tor-ee

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Nordquist, Richard. "Hortatory Discourse in Rhetoric." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-hortatory-discourse-1690841. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Hortatory Discourse in Rhetoric. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-hortatory-discourse-1690841 Nordquist, Richard. "Hortatory Discourse in Rhetoric." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-hortatory-discourse-1690841 (accessed September 19, 2021).