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A body of rules which serve in order to produce texts ‘according to the rules of art’ (either written or spoken)

Purpose of Rhetoric

The purpose of rhetoric is to persuade: intellectually (docere) and emotionally (delectare, movere).

  • DOCERE: using LOGOS (appeal to reason)
  • DELECTARE: using ETHOS (appeal to character)
  • MOVERE: using PATHOS (appeal to emotion)


A speech, according to the classical pattern, has four parts:

  1. EXORDIUM (prooimion, introduction, Einleitung)
  2. NARRATIO (diegesis, narration, Erzählung)
  3. ARGUMENTATIO (pistis, argument, Beweis)
  4. PERORATIO (epilogos, conclusion, Schluß)

Stylistic Levels

(Note: one may find different stylistic levels in the same text, their use depends on the desired effect)

  • GENUS HUMILE: low style, plain style, close to everyday speech, possibly even colloquial. Characteristics: simple, mainly conventional usage, little ‘ornament’, few figures of speech
  • GENUS MEDIUM or MIXTUM: middle or mixed style, often used in learned dissertations, designed to “delight” rather than “move” the audience; tends to be used in (some) poetry, in comedy etc. Characteristics: ample use of tropes, embellishments,
  • GENUS GRANDE or GRAVE or SUBLIME: high or sublime style, solemn, emphatic, passionate, designed to move the audience, tends to be used in tragedies, eulogies, heroic epics etc. Characteristics: complex syntax, unconventional word order, unconventional figures of speech, rhythmicized language

Traditional Steps for Preparing a Speech

5 partes artis:

1. INVENTIO: (heuresis, invention, Erfindung)

a mnemonic verse from the 16th century:
Who, what and where, by what help, and by whose:
Why, how, and when, do many things disclose

2. DISPOSITIO (taxis, arrangement, Anordnung): arrangement (cf. above ‘structure’)
3. ELOCUTIO (lexis, style, Stil)
4. MEMORIA (mneme, memorizing, Gedächtnis)
5. ACTIO or PRONUNTIATIO (hypokrisis, execution, Vortrag)

Genres of Speeches

Genus demonstrativum Genus deliberativum Genus iudiciale
Topic Honour/Dishonour Advantage/Detriment Justice/Injustice
Function Praise/Reprimand Admonition/Warning Accusation/Defence
Temporal Reference Present Future Past
Example Praise (panegyric), libel, gratulatory texts, ode etc. Political speech, didactical purposes, sermon Speech at court, pamphlet, satire, apology

How to learn Rhetoric

How to acquire the methods of rhetoric?

  • ARS: command of rhetorical techniques
  • IMITATIO: imitation of exemplary models
  • EXERCITATIO: practice
[source: Heinrich F. Plett, Einführung in die rhetorische Textanalyse, Hamburg ²1973 [1971], 3-22, 102-105.]


Rhetorik, Fernuni Hagen