Revisioning Strategic Communication Through Rhetoric and Discourse Analysis

Published In: Joint Force Quarterly, v. 76, no. 1, Jan. 2015, p. 52-57

Posted on RAND.org on February 18, 2015

by William Marcellino

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Strategic communication can be made more conceptually robust and draw on a more powerful and useful suite of tools and methods by borrowing from two language-focused disciplines: rhetoric and discourse analysis. Rhetoric offers an explanatory framework for how and why communication fails or succeeds, as well as practical domain knowledge for how to design and effect sound communication strategies, while discourse analysis is a set of approaches and methods to analyzing real-world language use (discourse). Rhetoric, a humanities discipline centered on argumentation and persuasion, has had practical value and been effective since Aristotle's time, but it also has an empirical wing developed over the last 60 years. Discourse analysis is a relatively recent offshoot from sociolinguistics, which brings systematic, empirical analysis to language at the micro level and features a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods.

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