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Studiegids

nl en

The Power of Words

Vak
2013-2014

Tag(s)

RA, PA

Admission Requirements

None.

Description

In this course we will examine persuasion that is gained through strategic choices of words. What is, for instance, the difference between a minister saying that something is possible or that it is not impossible? And what exactly is the rhetorical effect when someone says I don’t want to blame you for X, but… – thereby exactly blaming the addressee for X (a figure of speech called praeteritio)? Researchers from various linguistic disciplines have found evidence that even the slightest difference in the formulation of an argument or a standpoint can impose a different effect on a reader/hearer. Speakers can ‘construe’ or ‘frame’ the same phenomenon in different ways (see the example of possible/not impossible), and these choices have rhetorical consequences. We will investigate the power of words by studying insights from critical discourse analysis, stylistics and modern persuasion research, and we will apply these insights to actual texts. Next to this theoretical component, students will practice through formulating the same text in different styles and learn to reflect on their own word choice.

Learning aims:

  • Knowledge of the most important theories on strategic word choice

  • Skill of using these theories for analyzing actual texts

  • Skill of using different styles and reflecting on them

This course does not have any participation restrictions.

Course Objectives

  • Knowledge of the most important theories on strategic word choice

  • Skill of using these theories for analyzing actual texts

  • Skill of using different styles and reflecting on them

Mode of Instruction

In each class we will discuss parts of books and articles. Active participation is paramount. The reading work has to be prepared by uploading weekly web postings; during class all students are expected to engage in discussions. We will apply the theoretical insights to actual texts, and students will practice different styles of writing. Each week a number of students will be asked to prepare and lead parts of the group discussions about the assigned literature.

Assessment

Assessment: In-class participation
Learning aim: Interactive engagement with course material
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: Ongoing: Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Individual assignments: weekly web-postings (1 A4)
Learning aim: Individual engagement with course readings
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Ongoing: Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Group presentations (2 per student)
Learning aim: Understanding of course content
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Ongoing: Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Final research essay (3000 words)
Learning aim: Expression of holistic understanding of the course
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8

Literature

The literature for each class will be placed on Blackboard. Students are required to print the compulsory literature themselves, and bring to class. In the case that material cannot appear on Blackboard due to copyright restrictions, a web link will be placed. Again, students will then need to retrieve and print the compulsory literature themselves.

Contact Information

Drs. Maarten van Leeuwen, m.van.leeuwen@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Weekly Overview

  1. Week 1: Key concepts: style, framing and inherent argumentative force of language use
  2. Week 2: Rhetorical force of Metaphor
  3. Week 3: Attribute framing / Negation
  4. Week 4: Nominalization and Passivization
  5. Week 5: Speaker and audience construction: strategic use of pronouns
  6. Week 6: Generating applause / Words that work
  7. Week 7: Verbal certainty / General review
  8. Week 8: Reading week (no classroom hours)

Preparation for first session

Homework for the first session will be published on blackboard, a week before the course starts.