Condensation Symbols: Their Variety and Rhetorical Function in Political Discourse

Kaufer, David S.; Carley, Kathleen M.
July 1993
Philosophy & Rhetoric;Summer1993, Vol. 26 Issue 3, p201
Academic Journal
This article discusses the variety and rhetorical function of condensation symbols in political discourse. Rhetorical and linguistic approaches to language divide on this issue because linguists tend to view symbols as democratically leveled through the technical notion of synchronic meaning, a word's standard sense and reference as acquired by some hypothetical competent language user. Rhetorical theorists, however, focus on the stratified impact of words in context, a stratification brought about by the fact that every word has a unique history of usage across populations of audiences who can continue to affect a word's impact in contemporaneous messages. For the rhetorical theorist, high impact words evince a high degree of connectivity in context. Connectivity is used to mean the number and strength of associations that link explicit utterances with the insider elaboration of their audiences. Words that are highly and richly connected to their audiences seem to function as more than just words and become consciously referred to as symbols, aspects of language studied in a distinguished tradition. Situational conductivity refers to the capacity of a linguistic concept both to elaborate and to be elaborated by other concepts in a particular context of use.


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