69455 - English Language and Culture III (First Language) (CL1)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The ability to analyse argumentative texts, both spoken and written, and both pre-prepared and (semi)spontaneous, and the ability to recognise and potentially reproduce the techniques of persuasion utilised by speakers and writers.

Persuasion is defined as the use of ideas and notions (logos), appeal to emotions (pathos) and the projection of personality (ethos) in the attempt to influence the beliefs and behaviours of other people (Partington, Duguid and Taylor 2013) and it is encountered everywhere in everyday life, from political speeches to job interviews to conversations with friends to academic exams. Very often, in mediation - both translation and interpreting - from one language to another, the lion’s share of attention and effort is paid to the former (ideas) and the latter two (pathos and ethos) get relatively ignored.

In pluralistic societies, persuasion is very generally competitive, with different writers and speakers vying to influence the views and behaviours of audiences for their own benefit. In this sense, the ability to persuade confers power. What stance, then, do language mediators take when mediating attempts to persuade?

Reception of persuasion will also be considered, from how attempts at persuasion can be recognised, and how people both align with or resist such attempts.

Course contents

Key concepts include

the system of evaluation for persuasion, comprising the lexical, grammatical and textual means of performing evaluation;

textual organisation, in particular, both ideational and evaluative cohesion;

argument structures (including comparison/contrast, problem – solution, hypothesis-evidence-explanation);

the marking of importance, both text-oriented and real-world importance marking;

‘facework’ and im/politeness theory. According to Brown and Levinson, all individuals possess face, that is, a ‘public self-image’ (1987: 61) which we all project of ourselves to the outside world. Facework is the behaviour we employ to project and protect that image, as well as ways in which we treat the ‘face’ of other parties. We look at facework in both private and public (institutional) settings.

the use of metaphor, including competition among metaphors in argumentation (e.g. the EU as a ‘club’, as a ‘fortress’, as a ‘family’, as a ‘thief’);

rhetorical devices commonly employed, generally known as creative repetition and creative contrast.

Particular attention will be given to how non-obvious meanings are communicated, including irony and sarcasm (reversal of evaluation) and semantic (also known as evaluative) prosody. Such meanings can present language mediators with especially thorny problems, e.g. how to recognize non-obvious meanings in a non-native language event, and whether to render them equally implicitly for the target audience or interpret them more explicitly.


Highly recommended are:

Cockcroft, R. and Cockcroft S. 2014 (2005). Persuading People: An Introduction to Rhetoric. London: Macmillan.

Partington, A. and A. Marchi, 2015. Using corpora in discourse analysis. In D. Biber & R. Reppen (eds) The Cambridge Handbook of English Corpus Linguistics, Cambridge University Press, pp. 216-234.

Partington, A. 2017. Varieties of non-obvious meaning in CL and CADS: from ‘hindsight post-dictability’ to sweet serendipity. Corpora 12:3, 339-367. ISSN: 1749-5032.

Partington, A. 2017. Evaluative clash, evaluative cohesion and how we actually read evaluation in texts. Journal of Pragmatics 117, 190-203. ISSN: 0378-2166.

Partington, A. and C. Taylor 2018. The Language of Persuasion in Politics. London & New York: Routledge.

Teaching methods

Lessons are conducted in English. Key notions are presented and students are encouraged to ask questions and take an active part in discussion. Practical activities will be set for self-study.

Assessment methods

The principal exam is a written exam in English comprising questions based on the contents of the lessons taught in class. There is also a midterm written essay exam (c. 1200 words) on a topic of choice from the course.

Lesson slides will be made available before the exam for the purpose of revision.

The final grading is awarded as follows:

Formal/linguistic aspects (language skills)

  • 15 points: excellent language skills
  • 10-12 points: good/very good language skills
  • 9 points: sufficient language skills
  • 0-8 points: inadequate/seriously deficient language skills

Content-related aspects (competences and skills related to the subject matter of the module)

  • 15 points: excellent subject-related competences and capacities
  • 10-12 points: good/very good subject-related competences and capacities
  • 9 points: sufficient subject-related competences and capacities
  • 0-8 points: inadequate/seriously deficient subject-related competences and capacities

Teaching tools

Lessons are conducted in English and, where appropriate, multi-media learning supports will be employed (especially PowerPoint and Internet) for listening, reading and semiotic input, both as illustrations of linguistic issues for mediators and prompts for discussion.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Alan Scott Partington