Published on 28.01.2021

New 3-year SNF project started at the English Department by Dr Steve Oswald

Dr Steve Oswald has been awarded a 3-year COST SNF project (2021-2023). The project, titled Implicit Meaning in Argumentation: Functions, Usages and Norms (IMAFUN, project n°198170), investigates the role implicit meaning plays in argumentative discourse and seeks to test, from an experimental perspective, a range of associated rhetorical effects. The research will mainly be conducted by Daniel de Oliveira Fernandes, SNF PhD student, under the supervision of Steve Oswald. The project's website is available here [url].


Given the heterogeneity of types of meaning - ranging from figurative to litteral meaning, from explicit to implicit meaning, from overt to covert meaning -, on which speakers may rely when formulating their arguments, an inventory of implicit meaning seems necessary. In parallel, given the social motivations behind the use of implicitness (politeness, non-commitment, cautiousness), it also seems opportune to identify the set of rhetorical effects typically associated to the use of different types of implicit meaning. The first part of this project will thus map the correspondences between types of implicit meaning and rhetorical effects.

The second part of the project is meant to experimentally test different rhetorical effects of implicit meaning, mainly in the rhetorical categories of logos and ethos, in order to ground the explanatory adequacy of the previously established inventory. Through this methodology, different types of implicit meaning will be contrasted according to their ability to trigger different rhetorical effects. Our results will make us better understand the rhetorical implications linked to the use of implicit meaning in public argumentation. This has far-reaching implications for normative questions linked to the exercise of democracy, which are at the core of COST Action APPLY (CA-17132), to which IMAFUN is associated.