Endoxa and cultural keywords in the pragmatics of argumentative discourse
The project investigates the argumentative function and rhetorical exploitation of keywords in persuasive texts, with an applicative focus on the corporate reporting discourse, more precisely on top management´s introductory letters from annual and corporate social responsibility reports. The research starts from the hypothesis (Rigotti & Rocci 2005, Rocci 2006, Bigi 2006, 2007) that cultural keywords act as pointers to endoxa (in the Aristotelian sense of culturally shared assumptions and values) that can be recovered from the communal common ground, so enabling the addressee to supply implicit premises required by the enthymematic structure of the argument, or to elaborate the content or structure of the argument in other relevant ways. The project aims to provide a new method for keyword identification, combining corpus analysis with multilevel argumentative reconstruction of individual texts, and investigates the rhetorical exploitation of keywords drawing from the results of cognitive pragmatics and persuasion research carried out within dual-process theories. In particular, it will be observed whether and under what circumstances the connotations carried by keywords contribute to a central line of argumentation of which the arguer ostensibly takes full commitment, or they belong to peripheral lines of persuasion resting on weakly implicated inference chains. Following this line of research, the project endeavours to develop a new integrative theoretical framework, aimed at bridging the gap between two complementary approaches to persuasion: the theory of argumentation and rhetoric on one hand, and cognitive pragmatics and dual-process theories of attitude formation and change on the other. At the same time the project will offer the opportunity to empirically test some of the theoretical models employed in different phases of the research (e.g. "Y model" of a locus, the model of communication context) so enabling their theoretical refinement and possible extension. By its applicative part, the project will offer new significant tools for increasing the quality of the persuasive strategies employed in corporate reporting, extensible without doubt to other genres of (more or less customized) business communication: letters to shareholders, managerial communication and marketing communication, including advertising). At the same time, the project will offer new insights on the interplay between corporate identity and organizational culture in strategically conveying a multiple faceted, yet coherent company image.