Research and publications
Chapter 2. Manipulation in exceptional times
Steve Oswald, Didier Maillat (2024) | Book chapter
The Pragmatics and Argumentation Interface
Languages (2023) | Journal article
Norms of Public Argument: A Speech Act Perspective
Topoi (2023) | Journal article
Norms of Public Argumentation and the Ideals of Correctness and Participation
Argumentation (2023) | Journal article
Pragmatics for argumentation
Journal of Pragmatics (2023) | Journal article
Rephrase and Situational Ethos - Experiment 1
Ramy Younis, Jennifer Schumann, Daniel de Oliveira Fernandes, Steve Oswald (2023) | Other
On the Rhetorical Effectiveness of Implicit Meaning—A Pragmatic Approach
Languages (2022) | Journal article
Insinuation is committing
Journal of Pragmatics (2022) | Journal article
A Pragmatic Account of Rephrase in Argumentation
Informal Logic (2022) | Journal article
Introduction: The Pandemic of Argumentation , in Argumentation Library
Oswald, S. and Lewi?ski, M. and Greco, S. and Villata, S. (2022) | Book chapter
AMoRe - Argumentative Model of Rephrase: Pragmatic and Rhetorical Approach
Start 01.01.2022 End 31.12.2025 Funding SNSF Open project sheet SCIENTIFIC GOALS. This project investigates pragmatic and rhetorical aspects of the use of rephrase in argumentative discourse. Unlike the study of paraphrase, which has restricted its scope to the syntactic and semantic dimensions involved in producing a ‘similar but different’ version of what was previously said, the study of rephrase will here tackle the forms, functions and benefits of rephrase that are relevant from an argumentative point of view. The underlying assumption we explore and document in project AMoRe lies in the idea that rephrase is crucially not mere paraphrase. Specifically, this project will engage with the following three research questions: (RQ1) on which linguistic and discursive resources (from locutions to illocutions) does rephrase draw in argumentative exchanges? (RQ2) how are the different perlocutionary effects of rephrase connected to the use of specific locutions and illocutions displayed in argumentatively relevant instances of rephrase? (RQ3) how can linguistic evidence fuel empirical research designs meant to measure perlocutionary effects of rephrase, and how may the latter return reliable and useful feedback to support our theoretical efforts towards a deeper understanding of the linguistic and pragmatic structures of rephrase? In so doing, AMoRe importantly fills (i) descriptive gaps, by improving our knowledge of this phenomenon (the ‘what’ question), (ii) explanatory gaps, by illuminating the circumstances in which its effects can be observed (the ‘why’ question), and (iii) epistemological gaps, by supplying the description of rigorous and original methodological protocol that convincingly connect the study of locutions with that of illocutions and perlocutions (the ‘how’ question). OUTPUT. The project will deliver: (i) an annotation scheme and guidelines allowing to map dialogical arguments with rephrase structures; (ii) publicly available corpora of annotated rephrase types and structures; (iii) an inventory of propositional, stylistic, illocutionary and dialogical patterns associated with the use of rephrase to be published through a series of papers highlighting philosophical, linguistic and computational aspects; (iv) a methodological protocol allowing the systematic combination of linguistic and cognitive evidence which grounds our novel pragma-rhetorical account; (v) a fully-fledged pragma-rhetorical model of rephrase which integrates all aspects investigated in this project. METHODOLOGY. To ensure a sustainable and far-reaching scientific contribution, AMoRe draws on four different methodological approaches. (i) As our general philosophical framework, we adopt Speech act theory (Austin 1962, Searle 1969) and draw on its fundamental notions of locutionary act, illocutionary act and perlocutionary act to construe the argumentatively relevant phenomenon of rephrase. (ii) To conduct our analysis of linguistic patterns, we use Inference anchoring theory (Budzynska & Reed 2011), as the latter supplies the analytical apparatus required to conceptualise the pragmatic import of rephrase into argumentative structures, given its ability to connect SAT and formal dialogue systems. (iii) The empirical collection of our linguistic evidence for uses of rephrase will be conducted according to a bottom-up methodology supplying a reliable procedure to construct, annotate and analyse large spans of text with relevant and cutting-edge metrics and visualisation tools. (iv) We will collect cognitive evidence for rhetorical effects of rephrase in argumentation through a crowdsourced-based methodology, which will allow us to quantitatively record judgements on various measures related to perlocutionary effects. IMPACT. Along with its pragma-rhetorical model of the use of rephrase in argumentation, AMoRe will accordingly deliver a valuable epistemological contribution to the philosophy of argumentation – and to the philosophy of language more broadly. Indeed, this project will demonstrate how the integration of these four methodological strands into a coherent model adds high value to current research at the interface of pragmatics and argumentation theory. By documenting a fully functional research paradigm able to account for argumentatively and pragmatically relevant phenomena in novel and exhaustive ways, AMoRe therefore stands to make an unprecedented contribution to the philosophical study of language practices.
Implicit Meaning in Argumentation: Functions, Usages and Norms (IMAFUN)
Start 01.01.2021 End 31.12.2024 Funding SNSF Open project sheet Background and rationale. During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump made a habit of uttering disparaging and even legally reprehensible public statements. Interestingly, these messages were all plausibly deniable – and Trump often did deny having meant them. For instance, he was accused of (i) insinuating, after the first Republican primary debate, that the moderator’s (Megyn Kelly) alleged aggressiveness towards him was due to the fact that she was menstruating, and (ii) inciting murder on his Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton, by pondering whether “2nd amendment people” could “do something” to prevent her from being elected. These messages shared two properties: they (i) fulfilled an argumentative function of support that was (ii) implicitly expressed, in this case through insinuation. These messages participate to a form of democratic deficit: while their sheer presence is controverted (since they are deniable), they distract attention from main issues and support sneaky forms of misinformation. In other words, their rhetorical appeal may facilitate epistemic deficits which, in the public sphere, are themselves likely to generate democratic deficits by impacting norms of argumentation pertinent to message acceptability and equality among speakers. This project adopts a pragmatic perspective on meaning to investigate the rhetorical potential of implicit messages and its impact on linguistic norms of public argument. To do so, it relies on experimental methodologies. Overall objectives. In terms of fundamental research, the project contributes to the cognitive and linguistic turn in argumentation scholarship by experimentally documenting how different types of implicit meaning can be used to trigger a range of rhetorical effects. From a critical literacy perspective, the project sheds light on how linguistic and pragmatic norms of public argument can be violated and makes its results available for integration in relevant defensive communication designs for public deliberation. In terms of networking, the project capitalises on the collaboration of Swiss scholars (vice-chair and substitute MC member) and European colleagues in key positions (Action chair and WG2 leaders) to both strengthen Switzerland’s participation to European research networks and benefit from the networking COST instruments. Specific aims. The project seeks to (i) map types and functions of implicit meaning in argumentative discourse, and (ii) characterise types of rhetorical effects from a pragmatic vantage point. Through experimental designs, the project will furthermore investigate (iii) how different types of implicit meaning are conducive to different types of rhetorical effects and (iv) provide insights on how implicit meaning – and its problematic uses – can affect norms of public argument. Methods. The experimental studies planned in this project implement psycholinguistic experimental research methods by measuring the effect of independent discourse variables on different evaluative responses. Expected results. We expect to provide a detailed, experimentally validated, account of how implicitness can be exploited in public argument to fulfil different problematic rhetorical purposes at odds with linguistic and pragmatic norms of public argument. We also anticipate in particular that (i) the use of implicit meaning makes certain rhetorical effects more likely to arise than the use of non-implicit meaning and that (ii) among types of implicit covert speech acts, insinuation and dogwhistles – which allow for denial and de-committing strategies – are particularly well-suited to affect speaker ethos (their perceived image). Impact. In terms of research impact, the project will confirm the usefulness of an experimental approach to deepen our understanding of the role of implicit meaning in the rhetorical success of arguments. In terms of pedagogical impact, the project will cohere with 2 of the main long-term impacts of the COST Action: by providing an account of how implicit meaning can be strategically exploited in public deliberation, it will inform the design of effective strategies meant to counter its nefarious effects. These, in turn, can be disseminated as part of the COST Action deliverables to help citizens critically identify fallacious argumentation and populist rhetoric in view of improving the quality of their decisions.
European Network for Argumentation and Public Policy Analysis (APPLY)
Start 19.10.2018 End 18.04.2023 Funding Cost
Providing and criticising reasons is indispensable to achieve sound public policy that commands the support of both citizens and stakeholders. This need is now widely acknowledged in the recent literature and key EU documents, which highlight the perils of populist discourse and policies.
The European network for Argumentation and Public PoLicY analysis (APPLY) improves the way European citizens understand, evaluate and contribute to public decision-making on such matters of common concern as climate change or energy policies. Addressing this need from a multidisciplinary perspective on argumentation, the APPLY Action identifies gaps between the citizens’, policymakers’ and scholarly experts’ argumentation, and explores ways of treating them.
2nd European Conference on Argumentation (ECA2017)
Start 01.06.2017 End 31.08.2017 Funding SNSF Open project sheet The European Conference on Argumentation (ECA) is a pan-European initiative launched in 2013 aiming to consolidate and advance various streaks of research into argumentation and reasoning. ECA’s chief goal is to organise on a biennial basis a major conference that provides an opportunity for exchanging research results and networking in all areas related to the study of argumentation: linguistics, philosophy, communication, discourse analysis, computer science, psychology, cognitive studies, legal theory, etc. We are dedicated to work in synergy with other major events – such as the conferences organised by the International Society for the Study of Argumentation and the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation – by following their interdisciplinary spirit and avoiding schedule overlaps. As a distinguishing feature, ECA events offer a mix of plenary keynote sessions, thematic symposia, long papers with assigned commentators, and regular papers. ECA is organised every other year at a different European location. The 1st edition took place in Lisbon, Portugal in 2015 and was hosted by the ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa (New University of Lisbon). While based in Europe, ECA involves and further encourages participation from argumentation scholars all over the world. The organisation of the 2nd edition of ECA has been awarded to the English Domain at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Each meeting results in the publication of conference proceedings (with College Publication Publishers, London) and may in addition lead to a dedicated selection of papers as a special journal issue or a collective volume.
Argumentation & Langage. Marqueurs linguistiques, processus discursifs, opérations cognitives