Yuan Presentation 2016

On Argumentative Functions of Litotes

Litotes, avoiding a directly affirmative claim via denying its opposite, is a powerful figure, pervasive in both English and Chinese discourses. Previous studies in these two languages have examined its types and functions in brief, but failed to realize that these types convey specific argumentative functions. Based chiefly upon Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca’s notion of argumentative figure, and Jeanne Fahnestock’s extension to Figural Logic, we investigate the shared active litotes types in English and Chinese texts, and their corresponding argumentative functions. The findings expect to be drawn from the abundant data analysis of corpora for Chinese and English classic works. We argue that litotes, its major argumentative functions in particular, deserves increased attention both in and outside the discipline of rhetoric.

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