Term Paper: Vernacular Rhetoric the Art of Using Grandiloquent

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¶ … Vernacular Rhetoric

The art of using grandiloquent language, though insincere it maybe, as a means of effective communication and persuasion has been coined as "rhetoric" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Aristotle also deemed rhetoric as a person's own and particular skill to utilize the available sources of persuading his audience (Aristotle, 2006). Since people having the ability to persuade their audience with arguments may or may not choose to employ it in their discourse, it is not unwarranted to consider rhetoric as a part of one's strategy to communicate (Howard, 2005). This leads to the inference that all communication carried out by humans is specifically rhetorical as it is conducted only by choice and motivation (Burke, 1966). During their communicative action people share their beliefs and practices that are common or native between them through traditions of their community or are in their common interest, hence giving rise to the Vernacular Theory of Rhetoric or simply Vernacular Rhetoric. The Vernacular Rhetoric theory initially underpinned the importance of language and oratory for proficient communication between leaders and their community but now it has ensconced a more 'public' approach whereby all duly educated people should be able to act through language and share social truths in their dialogues (Conley, 1994 and Kennedy, 2004).

The word 'vernacular' has its roots in Roman-Latin term verna which is used to refer to slaves born and bred in one's own home. The meaning has been extended to include any entities that are local or home-grown. For the Greeks and Roman, vernacular lied in their language that they could use to present their views and fight orally for their stances (Howard, 2005). In the ancient Roman society progeny born to a native slave woman, who could speak Latin, were preferred over the captured ones, who spoke scarce Latin, as the former could be relied upon because of their familiaritywithlocal language to learn valuable skills. On the other edge of the social scale, the illustrious Roman politician, Cicero, is still lauded for his great thinking and practice of lingual rhetoric in his public oratory. He held the view that in order to ward-off tyranny and oppression for a just society education had to be fostered among individuals so they could learn to engage in public debate or controversies make valid decisions regarding public discrepancies and issues (Howard, 2005). He had foreseen that people with the skill of efficient speaking, persuasion and communication with community could help avoid the rise of severe public conflicts. Although, unfortunately, Cicero fell prey to the very governmental system which followed political and institutional rhetoric that he himself introduced, the association established by him between rhetoric and persuasive political speaking is still held significant.

The article "Vernacular Culture" coined the synonym 'commonplace' for 'vernacular'in American Anthropologist (Lantis, 1960) while Amos Rapoport (1969) used the Vernacular Rhetoric theory to elaborate "Vernacular Architecture" as something that is 'understood by everyone in society. 'These approaches to 'vernacular 'theorize the same meaning to Vernacular Rhetoric as did the Greek and Romans i. e., something which is not imposed by a formal institution or design but it emerges from the individuals sustaining in the community under consideration. Primiano (1995), however, introduced a more modern approach stating institutions themselves as vernacular establishments. None of the opinions can be individually established; if we analyze any communication that arises from an institution, we actually make an attempt to locate the dramatic intensity, enthusiasm and flavor that Cicero wished to be associated with it, no matter how formal the institution or speaker or audience may be that are engaged in the discourse. These approaches towards Vernacular Rhetoric have left it more of a mode itself to study human behavior and social interaction rather than an object of study itself.

The scholars of rhetoric have discussed the meaning of this term, among which Gerry Hauser (1999) stands most prominent. Hauser has explained rhetorical discourse as an entity that also conveniently influences institutional communication or Institutional Rhetoric, which is actually an opposition to Vernacular Rhetoric. He thus treats 'vernacular' as something which affects all communication taking place in the sphere specifically around the general public and within the public too. Hauser has not clearly elaborated whether he considers the institutions to be related to political affairs or not. He has not made a distinct attempt to knit a precise relationship between public communications, political discourse, and his so-called idea of Vernacular Voices.

All discussion on Vernacular Rhetoric has still left us with no particular and precise distinction between the Theory of Vernacular Rhetoric and Theory of Institutional Rhetoric. Although both theories deal with the mode of communication or discourse being adopted at different social levels, most of the perspectives render Institutional Rhetoric associated with the discourse of state or institutions and their being rhetorical bodies themselves while Vernacular Rhetoric is linked to the public or to the social interactions of the disempowered (Ono and Sloop, 1995). In most studies these theories oppose each other. Vernacular communication offers a sense of oneness and joint community opposing the idea of dominant supremacies. This idea, however, fails to notice the vernacular or "local" nature of the most authorized and hegemonic communities too (Howard, 2005). As a matter of fact, while focusing on the vernacular groups and communication, critics often ignore the vernacular properties linked to dominant institutions. As an example of this consider the challenging discourse between the whites and blacks in American Society as explained by Thomas Boyd (1991). He emphasized that there are disregarded elements of a dominant society. e., the whites in this case that negate its own dominance in particular ways. While determining a vernacular the diversity expected to arise in vernacular discourses even within a single geographic community cannot be ignored.

The Theory of Vernacular Rhetoric makes an attempt to explain formal institutional and also non-institutional discourse; does it explain any informal discourse and social learning in which people may involve? As already discussed, all discussion that takes place among individuals is completely voluntary; hence, it is motivated and involves rhetoric whatsoever. There is a motive behind what one is communicating, either formally or informally, and these motives need to be inferred. To elaborate this, if we consider carrying out a critical study of simply rhetoric behind a discourse in order to know the motives that lead to that discourse then carrying out a study of Vernacular Rhetoric would be the analysis of the same motives but while expressing them in home-borne communication practices. To generate the latter study is complicated as one has to maintain a supple status as vernacular is always subject to change as the conventions of the community to which it belongs change (Hauser, 2009). For example, the vernacular of social movements that took place in the early 20th century included disputes of race and class but now identity, land and environment fall in this fight too. These changes have arisen due to the variance in modes of expression that common citizens use to show their distress and rebellion for a joint interest. The vernaculars associated with one discourse or issue may not be the same as that linked to another one although the persons presenting it may be the same. The vernaculars attached to a theory of environmental law cannot be the same as those associated with civil rights.

Theory of Vernacular Rhetoric cannot be confined to homes, libraries, schools or classrooms; instead it arises from the streets and the people thriving therein, who practice vernacular rhetoric every moment of the day (Hauser, 2009). To understand social discourse and the vernaculars linked one needs to reach their composition and origin. If it is happening in the streets, it should be studied in the streets. The rhetoric is produced and re-produced in association with the same vernacular again and again; to whom does that Vernacular Rhetoric address? What is meant to be inferred from that rhetoric? What is it that holds this Vernacular Rhetoric separate from an official discourse of the state? This type of social rhetoric of the common people against official power institutions is the most obvious expression of Vernacular Rhetoric. If the answer to these questions in left unanswered by the theorist, the point where official powers intersect with the Vernacular Rhetoric i. e., the attempt of a common man to engage in dissent and argument with the former's power to bring change, shall remain mundane without attaining any significance for the followers of his theory or will bring no applicability.

Vernacular Rhetoric basically theorizes a situation in which the common man uses his Vernacular or lingual power to displace the authority or monopoly of an imposing institution. This theory holds the general masses as captives of a hegemonic power and its ideology while ignoring the fact that all hegemony has originally originated from the masses itself. The continuous struggle and debate of those holding the reigns of power in their hands and those that do not can be justly treated as the Vernacular Rhetoric… [END OF PREVIEW]

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