Carnegie Mellon University
March 30, 2015

Linguist, Paul Hopper, Lectures on The Rhetoric of Retraction and Projection

Paul HopperPaul Hopper

On Wednesday evening, Carnegie Mellon University’s Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Humanities, Paul Hopper, presented a lecture entitled, “Back to the Future: The Rhetoric of Retraction and Projection” in Baker Hall.

Hopper is the co-author of the book “Grammatization” and was a Fulbright and Guggenheim fellow. He was the next speaker up in the English department’s Rhetoric Colloquium Speaker Series, which brings in one or two nationally or internationally known scholars to speak about their work with students and faculty each semester.

Hopper started his discussion by looking at the1958 article titled, “Temporality as a characteristic of argument," by Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, where temporality is invoked in order to distinguish between demonstration and argument.

He then discussed the rhetorical significance of retraction, which looks back and makes summations. Hopper also examined the rhetorical significance of projection, which creates cohesiveness by anticipating upcoming discourse.

“Carnegie Mellon’s rhetoric and professional writing programs are well known for their rigorous training in language study, which allows our students to understand the micro-Paul Hopperlevel features of language use, often invisible, easily taken for granted, but also enormously impactful in real life communication,” said Andreea Deciu Ritivoi, professor of English. “Paul Hopper has done cutting-edge research on identifying these features, explaining how they function rhetorically, persuasively, as arguments and what broader communicative purposes they serve.”

Hopper discussed current research, including his own, on the analysis of conversation and illustrated the ideas with sometimes, comedic examples, from English texts. For instance, he discussed and analyzed how the words ‘this’ and ‘that’ were used in a hilarious clip that recently aired on The Rachel Maddow Show, which showed some of the ways English demonstratives can be used in the natural discourse.

The Rhetoric Colloquium drew an audience of English department faculty members and graduate students, as well as faculty and students from other departments.

“Hopper has also created a course on rhetorical grammar, which is a key component of our professional writing curriculum,” said Ritivoi. “The course integrates his scholarly vision and findings with real life examples and applications. His work on language theory is a central part of our Rhetoric doctoral curriculum.”

View our Events Calendar to stay up to date on when the next Rhetoric Colloquium will be offered.

By: Amanda King