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Discussing discourse modalities in argument theory: Reconsidering a paradigm

Paul van den Hoven
From the journal Semiotica

Abstract

This article analyzes a statement by Blair that the conditions of interpretation of visual expression are indeterminate to a much greater degree than is the case with verbal expression. We argue that this proposition reveals a somewhat hidden paradigm about what argument theory is or should be. This currently dominant paradigm takes as its object a prototypical verbal discourse from which arguments can be “reconstructed” in a fairly straightforward way. In this article, we argue that accepting multimodal discourse as a means to convey argumentation implies the necessity of a serious amendment of this paradigm. The problem of modeling the protagonist’s commitments inevitably requires our having to deal more with indeterminate, “raw” discourse formats, not to be replaced by verbal reconstructions. It requires our incorporating multimodal semiotics as an integrated element of argumentation theory; and it requires our accepting that argumentative commitments are deliberately underspecified and negotiable.

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Published Online: 2017-11-07
Published in Print: 2018-01-26

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