ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Reasoning In Listening

logo  2002-11. Introduction   
Our main thesis is that reasoning plays a different role in understanding oral discourse than it does in understanding written discourse [i]. In particular, this seems to be the case for listening to lectures, speeches, and other forms of monologue, as opposed to reading comparably long texts. The reason for this difference, as we shall see, is that listening takes place in “real time,” in the sense that one is not free to look ahead or back as one is in reading (We shall not deal explicitly with dialogue, which is the other main form of oral discourse, except to note here that it has a written counterpart, viz., the internet medium of “Instant Messenger” (IM), which is a kind of hybrid, in that, while it takes place in real time, it does permit the user to look backwards, though not forwards).
If listening does make different demands on reasoning than reading does, this may account for some of the differences between oral and literate cultures. It is sometimes assumed that oral cultures are generally less sophisticated than literate ones, but this assumption can hardly survive exposure to history. Havelock, writing about Greece in the time of Homer, offers an admittedly speculative corrective to such a view:
We can hazard the guess, in short, that that specific and unique Hellenic intelligence, the source or cause of which has baffled all historians, received its original nurture in communities in which the oral technique of preserved communication threw power and so prestige into the hands of the orally more gifted. It made the competition for power, endemic among all human beings, identifiable with the competition for intelligence. The total nonliteracy of Homeric Greece, so far from being a drawback, was the necessary medium in which the Greek genius could be nursed to its maturity. (Havelock, 1963, 127)

The classical civilizations retained an oral character long after the development of literacy. A modern listener would find it difficult to follow the oratory of Cicero, with its long sentences, or periods, characterized by subordinate clauses, often nested within one another. In The Art of Memory, Frances Yates describes the elaborate methods employed by ancient orators to commit their speeches to memory. But it is unlikely, to say the least, that the short-term memory of ancient listeners was more capacious than our own. Cognitive scientists have found severe and apparently universal limits on short-term memory. Consequently, if ancient listeners were more proficient at processing complex oral communications, it is probably because they employed different strategies than we are accustomed to. When Mark Twain made fun of Germans waiting with rapt attention for the verb at the end of a sentence, he was, of course, exaggerating for comic effect. But apprehending the ornate periods of a Cicero in real time must have involved the sort of suspense Twain describes. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Significance Of Effective Communication In Critical Thinking

logo  2002-11. Brief background to  English in Namibia
Article 3(1) of The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia (1990, 3)  declares that “the official language of Namibia shall be English”. This, clearly, is a pragmatic response to a situation before independence where the South African Administration in place before 21 March 1990 had established Afrikaans as lingua franca. It was also the medium of all official administration and instruction in most schools. Independence changed all that since there was now a desire to learn and use English in schools and in the place of work. The choice of English, a language for international business and effectiveness in our age, was appropriate and timeous.
For education, however, this declaration meant a tall order and several implications. Policies and strategies by means of which they could be achieved were to be framed within a short time if the declaration were to meet with success. Personnel to implement it were to be produced within an equally short time and, above all, the preparation of basic teaching and learning materials was to be undertaken with the seriousness that both the task at hand and reality posed. However appropriate these actions might be, given the context within which they were to be accomplished, any planner would be wary of the extent to which the declared ideal would be achieved.
But the responsible ministry, then that of Basic Education and Culture( MBEC), took on this declaration head on. Its first task was to frame an appropriate policy directive that English be the medium of instruction from Grade 4 upwards. In Grades 1-3, the policy recommended that mother tongues be used as a medium of instruction. Implicit in this directive was the hope and truth that teachers who had hitherto used Afrikaans as a lingua franca in most schools would be prepared to implement the said policy directive. To achieve this ideal, one needed adequate and aggressive training sessions, workshops, and seminars side by side with the production of instructive teaching and learning materials. The reality on the ground is that teachers could have done with more of these sessions, for quite a lot of them are not confident in the use of English in a number of contexts and in various scenarios.
The policy by MBEC directed further that English be both a subject and a medium of instruction from Grade 4 to university/ tertiary levels. This is still so with but interesting results.
This is the watershed of achievement or not in English Language in all levels of Education in Namibia since independence. This is the also the context that has a significant bearing on the achievement of higher education learners in critical thinking. As can be appreciated, clarity and precision in the use of language are the hallmark of meaningful critical thinking whether in the specific domain of critical thinking, or, indeed, in the case of critical thinking across the curriculum. If confidence in the use of language is lacking, achievement in a field such as Critical Thinking will beg serious questions. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Linguistically Sound Arguments: Part II: Eloquence And Argument

logo  2002-1At the 1998 International Conference on Argument, Ziegelmueller and Parson proposed a perspective on what constituted linguistically sound arguments. While those positions are surely memorably familiar to the listener or reader, it is possible that four years has dimmed recollection of these insights. Thus this paper will first summarize the positions taken in the 1998 paper presented here in Amsterdam; then it will focus on the one area which received but scant attention. In a word it will look at the possibilities of eloquence and argument; stated another way, it will return to the divorce between lexis and logos, and propose a settlement. That settlement will start with an awarding of the first of children involved, the lexical strategy with the name of “metaphor.” The awarding of the subsequent three children will await future conferences.
The earlier paper began by surveying a series of definitions of Good Argument, which included its reasonability – reasonable argument is that in which “the form of inference is free of obvious defects, and the underlying assumptions of the argument are shared by the audience” (Zarefsky, 1981: 88). Other definitions featured an argument’s “soundness”. An argument is sound, Farrell argues, if it:
1. is addressed to an empowered and involved audience,
2. conforms to the consensual standards of the specific field, and
3. is consistent with social knowledge (Farrell, 1977).
After surveying differing perspectives on Good Argument, we concluded that Good Argument is one that is linguistically sound and proposed three characteristics of linguistically sound arguments:

A linguistically sound argument:
1. conforms to the traditional field invariant standards of inductive and deductive argument,
2. is based upon data appropriate to the audience and field, and
3. is expressed in language that enhances the evocative and ethical force of argument (Ziegelmueller and Parson, 3-5).

Without reviewing the reasoning or data involved in establishing these characteristics, the purpose of this paper is to develop the third characteristic of linguistically sound arguments: the problem of language.

That lexis and logos have been divorced should come as no surprise. From the early applications of Aristotle to the present, the view of arguments as valid – when determined by a mathematical account of validity – have dominated the view of argument. Toulmin’s comments on the problems of the mathematical model and the need for a substitute model are well known (Toulmin, 3-10). Similarly, Chaim Perelman sees modern logic becoming increasingly removed from argument in discourse, being content to set up its own systems: “In modern logic, the product of reflection on mathematical reasoning, the formal systems are no longer related to any rational evidence whatever. The logician is free to elaborate as he pleases the artificial language of the system he is building, free to fix the symbols and combinations of symbols that may be used” (Perelman/Olbrects-Tyteca, 13). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Argumentation And Self-Representation In Everyday Narratives: The Logo Activity

logo  2002-11. Introduction
The central research problem presented in this paper is the relationship between argumentation, self-representation and narrative activity. Our main goal is to describe how group identity is collaboratively narrated in and through the arguments displayed in a group discussion activity that took place in a computer literacy program (La Gran Dimensión-LGD-) for adult Mexican immigrants in San Diego, California.
For this purpose we need to focus, first on the relationship between narrative and argumentation and second, on the one existing between argumentation and identity. Our analysis shows that argumentative structures are part of the narrative activity embedded within the group discussion activity taking place in La Gran Dimensión (LGD). Group-discussion activities, such as the one presented in this paper, serve to construct a group identity, based on argumentative structures related to linguistic, national origin, friendship, and goal-oriented cultural identifications.

2. Narrative and argumentation
Generally, when we think of narratives or stories, we think of them in terms of past events that contain a setting, a complication action and a resolution (Ochs, 1996). Classical sociolinguistic definitions of narratives (Labov and Waletzky, 1967, 20) consider them as a sequence of two or more clauses, which are temporally ordered. In this way, the overall structure of a narrative consists of the following elements (Labov, 1972): abstract or one or two clauses summarizing the whole story; orientation or set of clauses which identify the time, place, persons, or situation; complicating action or narratives clauses comprising the sequence of events; evaluation or clauses giving the point of the story; resolution or the part following the evaluation; and coda or the ending that brings the listener back to the present. Labov and Waletzky´s model distinguished two main functions in the narrative, the referential and the evaluative function. The referential function referred to the ability to match temporal sequences and the evaluative function consisted of that part of the narrative which reveals the attitude of the narrator towards the narrative. Although the evaluative function of narratives implicitly conveys the speaker’s stances[i] and dispositions towards the events portrayed, narrative and argumentation have been studies as two separate fields of studies (Carranza, 1999).

Sociolinguistic and discourse analysis definitions of narrative as a discourse analytic category which involves an evaluative point (Labov, 1972) of characters and events have exceptionally been related to argumentation (Van Dijk, 1984). Recent discourse analytic approaches have shown how argumentative stories are told to back up positions, opinions and interpretations of experience related to characters and events (Schiffrin, 1985; Van  Dijk, 1993; Carranza, 1999; De Fina, 2000). These studies also agree on the complex interrelationship that exists between argumentative and narrative structures in concrete communicative situations. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Whitey’s Olympics: The Discourse Of Discrimination In International Sport

logo  2002-1Sports and politics are popularly held as discrete, though sometimes overlapping, domains (Edwards, 1973; Hartmann, 1996; Hoberman, 1997). In contrast to the popularly held notion that sport is not, and should not be, political, Burstyn (1999) argues that sport is in fact central in dominant political and social systems. She adopts the term “sport nexus” as a cipher for the “multibranched transnational economy” surrounding Jhally’s (1984) “sport-media complex,” which articulates sport with “the mass media, corporate sponsors, governments, medicine, and biotechnology” (Burstyn, 1999, p. 17). In this paper, I further develop the claim that sport is, indeed, a political spectacle by examining the performative dimensions of two major grassroots Olympic boycott movements begun in the United States. The purpose of my investigation is to illustrate the ways in which grassroots U.S. Olympic boycott rhetoric advances a complicity theory of discrimination that, in conjunction with theories of social justice, has the potential to inform broader human rights campaigns.

Originally proposed as peaceful competition among individuals from many nations, the Olympics have evolved into nationalist spectacles (Guttman, 1992; Hulme, 1990). Grassroots U.S. American boycott movements in Olympic history, such as the Jewish boycott of the 1936 Berlin Games and the Black boycott of the 1968 Mexico City Games, offer critiques of Olympism, nationalism, and racial essentialism that contribute to a complicity theory of discrimination. I analyze the discursive strategies at work in the two boycott movements from a rhetorical perspective informed by McGary’s (1999) “theory of collective moral liability” (p. 87). I assert that the discursive strategies of the boycott movements are consistent with a social justice framework because they draw attention to social, political, and economic complicity in discrimination and provide a forum through which people can address their implication in, and moral liability for, discriminatory practices and policies.

In the past decade, communication scholars have shown increasing interest in social justice research. Much of this recent work argues that social justice is a marginalized concern in the discipline and focuses on applied case studies and the difference researchers can make in the lives of others (e.g., Frey, 1998; Frey, Pearce, Pollock, Artz & Murphy, 1996; Pearce, 1998; Pollock, Artz, Frey, Pearce & Murphy, 1996). Wood (1996), however, interprets social justice broadly and argues that publications across the field demonstrate a commitment to the dismantling of social injustice. This study contributes to the development of social justice research within the field of rhetorical and media studies, and illustrates the ways in which discourse analysis can contribute to the development of material and discursive responses to social injustice. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Arguments Of Victims: A Case Study Of The Timothy McVeigh Trial

logo  2002-1When the sun arose over Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, occupants and nearby residents of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building experienced the horror of a bomb blast that killed 168 and injured 500 members of their community. Following a lengthy trial, the jury convicted Timothy McVeigh of the bombing. After hearing thirty-eight victims testify about the impact of the bombing on their lives and that of their loved ones, the jury sentenced McVeigh to death. The victim’s arguments, called victim impact statements (VIS), convinced jurors that McVeigh should receive the death penalty rather than life imprisonment. Federal legal authorities executed McVeigh on June 11, 2001. This essay:
1. explains the origin and history of victims’ arguments in the courts in the United States,
2. describes this type of argumentation as a distinct genre of legal discourse by using Mikhail Bakhtin’s explanations of content, stylistics, and speech plans, and
3. discusses the implications of the study for research about legal argument.

1. Origin and History of Victims’ Arguments
Victim impact statements are a unique genre of legal argumentation. The use of victims’ arguments in the McVeigh trial evolved as part of a two-decade struggle for victims’ rights in the United States (McDonald, 1976; Carrington & Nicholson, 1984; Roland, 1989). This struggle began in the late 1970s and achieved legislative success with the 1982 Victim and Witness Protection Act. Temporary setbacks in victims’ rights took place when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Booth v. Maryland (1987) and South Carolina v. Gathers (1989) that victims’ impact testimony was unduly prejudicial to jurors because it could not be refuted by the defense and because defendants generally did not know who their victims were when they committed their crimes. In 1991 the victims’ rights movement gained new momentum when both of these decisions were overturned in Payne v. Tennessee. Even more voice was given to victims in 1994 through The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which permitted both the use of the death penalty and VIS in federal trials.U.S. v. Timothy James McVeigh (1997) was the one of first federal capital cases to be tried under this statute.
Victims (often with the assistance of attorneys) justify the death penalty for a defendant because of the suffering they have experienced as a result of a crime. Some VIS are presented to the judge in the form of written arguments; others are read to jurors by a court official. Still others are both written and presented orally to the judge and jurors. In general, victims state their names, describe economic losses or physical injuries, identify changes in their physical or psychological well being, and/or explain the general effects of an offense (Schneider, 1992). The arguments from victims provide evidence about “any harm, including financial, social, psychological and physical harm, done to or loss suffered” by a victim at the hands of the accused (Victim and Witness Protection Act, 1982, 32). Read more

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