A comparison of rhetorical patterns in contemporary Chinese and American argumentation and persuasion

Xiao, Hailing
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This dissertation presents an exploratory study of the interrelationships among Chinese fundamental modes of traditional thinking, linguistic features, and rhetorical patterns that are relevant to the understanding of contemporary Chinese argumentative discourse. Dominant Chinese mindsets such as holistic thinking, stress on harmony and collectivism, and the yin-yang principle illustrate the persistent and integrated influence of Confucianist, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies on Chinese rhetoric.

Case studies of public speeches, advertisements, and an editorial, often held to be national exemplary models of argumentation and persuasion, demonstrate that Aristotle's basic rhetorical analytical framework, including three rhetorical appeals, are applicable to the analysis of both Chinese and American contemporary argumentative and persuasive discourse. This study shows that Chinese preferences for authoritative sayings, historical examples, analogies, and inductive reasoning, as indicated by some of the previous research, are still influencing the formulation of ethical and logical appeals in contemporary Chinese argumentative discourse. The use of four-character phrases, repetitions, and parallelisms remains characteristic of Chinese rhetorical devices. Additionally, both direct and indirect essay structures' are observable in contemporary Chinese argumentation. In contrast, Western modes of thinking such as dichotomization of body and soul, belief in Christianity, and emphasis on the values of freedom, democracy, and individualism that are deeply ingrained in American culture are important in the rhetorical premises in contemporary American argumentation. Also, the essay structure of American persuasion often fits into Aristotelian mode of rhetorical structure.

It is suggested that given the dynamic and multifaceted nature of sociocultural conditions of rhetoric, one should avoid oversimplifying the rhetorical constructs of any culture. The exploration of rhetorical patterns in Chinese and American argumentative and persuasive discourse provides a basis for effective cross-cultural communication in academic, sociocultural, and business settings.

Social sciences, Language, literature, and linguistics