Publication details [#8435]

Oakley, Todd V. 1995. Presence: The conceptual basis of rhetorical effect. College Park, Md.. 312 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


This study of the conceptual basis of rhetorical effect begins by linking the work of Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca on "presence" with work of cognitive linguists on "profiling." The nature of rhetorical presence will be explored in eight chapters. Chapter one examines active and passive constructions. In this chapter, I challenge the popular belief that the distinction between these two forms of expression resides in the presence or absence of the agent. Instead, the distinction has more to do with the way of expressing the "shape" of the event or idea. Chapter two focuses on patient-subject sentences as a means of construing an event objectively. In this chapter, I revisit Perelman's and Olbrechts-Tyteca's own analysis of this construction, arguing that while their analysis is flawed, their general point is correct and often overlooked by the linguists who study these expressions. Chapter three investigates the conditional construction. I argue that conditionals function as an indispensable means for discourse participants to contemplate possible consequences of actions and to establish causal relationships. Chapter four examines nominal compounds as a tool of definition and category extension, two basic elements of rhetoric. In this chapter, I offer the hypothesis that nominal compounds in English are generated by two general mechanisms: metonymy and metaphor. Chapter five examines the structure and function of counterfactuals. Counterfactuals are basic resources of thinking used to bring together ideas or concepts usually treated separately. Chapter five introduces by concrete example a general mechanism of cognition known as conceptual blending. As a general mechanism for "putting things together," conceptual blending sheds considerable light on the nature of presence. Chapter six examines an instance of conceptual blending in the work of journalist Jonathan Rauch. I study his idea of demosclerosis, a theory devised to explain why the federal government spends more money but gets less done. Chapter seven examines blending in economics. The phrase human capital names one of the most influential ideas in modern economic theory. Chapter eight examines the philosopher William Wimsatt's concept of a developmental lock, a model he proposed for integrating developmental and evolutionary biology. (Todd Oakley)