Book chapter

Everybody Knows that There Is Something Odd About Ad Populum Arguments

Published in:
  • The Language of Argumentation / Boogaart, Ronny ; Jansen, Henrike ; van Leeuwen, Maarten. - Springer. - 2021, p. 305-323
English In the wake of research on linguistic resources of argumentation (Doury, 2018; van Eemeren Houtlosser, & Snoeck Henkemans, 2007), this chapter considers the argumentative nature and rhetorical potential of the expression “everyone/everybody knows P”, which is likely to be used to fulfil a justificatory purpose in appeals to majority in the form of ad populum arguments (Godden, 2008). In this contribution, we draw on a rhetoric- pragmatic framework (Oswald & Herman, 2016) to identify the linguistic and cognitive underpinnings of argumentative resources in order to account for a range of persuasive effects in argumentation. There is something argumentatively odd about the expression “everybody knows that P” under consideration here. Since the epistemic modality encoded by the verb “to know” and the universal quantifier highlight that P is already known and shared, one could indeed wonder about the relevance of P as an argument: can an argument with little (if no) informative relevance serve a justificatory purpose? Since this seems to be the case, as the argument is widely used, we will show that the oddity can be explained away by looking at the pragmatic and rhetorical import of the expression.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département d'anglais
  • English
Language, linguistics
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