Argument is a rational discourse practice in which an announcer defends a point of view by confronting it with that of a real or potential opponent. This discursive practice presupposes, on the one hand, the existence of a contradiction, a confrontation of points of view, and on the other hand, it presupposes the existence of a plurality of options from which to choose.
An argument does not consist of a simple set of propositions, but has a specific structure. A premise and conclusion must always be present in this structure. The conclusion must be inferred or detached from the premise. In the argument, the premise takes the form of a statement that will be accepted as valid by virtue of its implicit or explicit relationship with another more general statement that allows the passage to the conclusion
The argument , then, is not only the data or the law of passage , but it is the result of the combination of both. The laws of passage that in other theories are called guarantees or topoi (common places), are conventions generally admitted by all who take the form of affirmations. The data becomes an argument when it is based on an appropriate Passage Law .
On the discursive level there is no fixed order of presentation of argumentative functions (data, Passage Law, conclusion); We must also take into account that most of the time the Passage Law does not appear explicitly on the surface of the text and it is necessary to reconstruct it so that the data adopts the status of argument . For example:
They are in better physical condition than us (data), they will win us (conclusion)
reconstructed passage law: A good physical condition is an essential factor to win.
Linguistic structure of the argument
In general, the assertions in the present are the most common grammatical form of the argumentative scheme: data, passage law and conclusion. The conclusion, however, can take the form of an imperative (order or invitation). In advertising texts, persuasive texts par excellence, the most common is the use of the imperative form.
The use of modal expressions in the argument will show to what extent the announcer is sure of what he is enunciating. Following Givón there are three types of statements:
1) The declarative statements in which the announcer expresses absolute certainty: I run in the morning .
2) The evidential statements in which the announcer expresses a relative confidence in what he maintains: I remember that he was running .
3) The statements that express a high degree of insecurity: I believe that I did not stop running .
Also, when arguing it is possible to resort to expressions that will show the degree of certainty or probability of what is sustained: It is indisputable that the earth revolves around the sun / It is possible that next year we will travel ; Undoubtedly photosynthesis is essential for plants / Probably the court will settle next month .
Textual structure of the argument
There is no single model of argumentative textual composition. You can find different argumentative text structures in different instances: a sermon, advertising, debate, a family discussion. The rigid textual scheme of the type: Introduction, Thesis, Argument, Conclusion , rarely appears in the texts we face. According to Dolz (1995), There is no single way to plan an argumentative text globally, but different possibilities that can be examined critically by students .
The argumentative connectors are the words that articulate the information and the argumentation of a text. Basically they organize the information that appears in the text in such a way that the overall argumentative intention of the text is evident. Although there may be argumentation without connectors, they are facilitators to understand the argumentative orientation of a text.
The roles in argumentation
The participants of an argumentative instance receive different denominations depending on the perspective that is adopted.
When the objective is to describe the argumentative mechanisms from a linguistic point of view it is called enunciador the participant who argues and addressed to the other party.
From a rhetorical perspective, the speaker is called a speaker , and his interlocutors, audience or public .
In an instance of debate, on the other hand, one speaks of an arguer and opponent .
The most common argumentative situations are discussion, debate, advice and reproach. In the case of discussion, advice and reproach, these are instances that are part of everyday life and do not necessarily have to be aggressive or controversial: you can dissent with the opinion of the other, make concessions, and also change of opinion.
When the instances of discussion take place in an institutional context, it is a debate , which is an activity that follows more specific rules and conventions.
A debate is a communicative situation centered on the discussion on a topic where the speech shifts of each participant are strictly regulated and arbitrated.
Another typical argumentative instance is the editorial . The editorial is a journalistic genre that takes the form of an unsigned text where current events of particular relevance are valued and judged. The editorial expresses the collective opinion of the journalists who are part of that medium, highlighting its ideological line.
Types of arguments
There are a wide variety of types of arguments that are used in different instances of social life, whether in family discussions, political or sports debates, trials, etc.
a- Types of arguments according to their persuasive capacity
This criterion meets the adequacy of the arguments. The characteristics that define the degree of adequacy of the arguments are: relevance, validity and argumentative force.
To be relevant, an argument must be linked to the conclusion or does not contribute to strengthening it.
An argument is valid when relevant, is well constructed and leads to the conclusion raised.
Despite being relevant and valid, the arguments may have different argumentative force. The degree of ease with which they can be refuted will determine whether they are faced with a weak argument or a solid argument . When an argument cannot be refuted, it is called an irrefutable argument .
b- Types of arguments according to their function
When an argument supports the conclusion raised, it is faced with an argument in favor , instead, a counterargument is intended to invalidate a contrary idea.
c- Types of arguments according to their content
This criterion addresses the different topics or values on which an argument is supported to have argumentative force. These concepts or values are varied and are related to cultural and social values
- Topic of existence : the real and existing is preferable to the non-existent ( I know you want to go to the theater, but it is better that we think otherwise: on Mondays there is no function ).
- Topic of utility : the useful and beneficial is preferable to the useless ( I should quit smoking: I have bronchial powder ).
- Topic of morality : what follows moral principles is preferable to the immoral ( Don’t answer your father like that. It is disrespectful ).
- Topic of the quantity : what you have more is preferable to what you have less ( Don’t tell me you don’t like the color of this dress! It’s taking a lot this season! ).
- Topic of quality : somehow this topic is opposed to the previous one and can be used as a co-argument ( Although Madrid is bigger and has many more things, it is better lived in my town ).
This list of topics does not account for the large number of possible topics simply presented by way of example (the Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca Argument Treaty registers more than eighty different topics.
d- Types of arguments according to their purpose
The argument can have the purpose of demonstrating the validity of one opinion using rational arguments to convince the other. In this case we will face a logical argumentation or an analogical argumentation .
A second purpose of the argument may be to persuade the other of a particular opinion, and in this second case, affective arguments will be appealed to move it ( affective argument ).
The logical argument is based on the logical principles of human reasoning. The logical argument par excellence is the syllogism. The syllogism is a reasoning composed of two premises ( Men are mortal ; Socrates is a man ) and a conclusion that follows from the premises ( then Socrates is mortal ). It is common that one of the permits does not always appear because it is assumed that the interlocutor knows her (according to what was presented earlier this premise would be the passage law). From the syllogism different arguments can be constructed depending on the relationship between the premises and the conclusion. The two most common forms are the example and the argument based on a general principle .