Text & Talk
An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies
Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant
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In this article we take the classic meaning of exemplum as a point of departure to show how examples are marked and used in oral discourse on ‘others’. The empirical material is a transcribed focus group interview with Swedish students talking about a trip to Warsaw.
Examples may be marked in explicit ways but also in implicit ways. Some examples seem recognizable by their allusive nature, others by animated talk or quotations.
Examples have various functions. They specify things but restrict them at the same time. They may serve as objectiﬁcations of an argument, they may mobilize associations, display attitudes, or indicate ‘types’ of persons or items. Some examples are virtual; they exemplify what could happen, or what never happened. Speakers may question another’s argument by referring to counterexamples, or request examples and thereby ‘disarm’ an opponent. Examples are also a target for protests. A dissatisﬁed listener may consider others’ examples as misleading, badly chosen, or too few.
In general, examples serve as shortened induction. They are articulated in relation to something general, vague, or abstract. Typically, a speaker conﬁrms, challenges, or in other ways elaborates an argument with the aid of examples, in order to convince and please the audience.
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