Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1878-9714
  • E-ISSN: 1878-9722
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Different from previous linguistic studies on rhetoric, which primarily concern the ideational semantics and the logic of sentences, this article attempts to deal systematically with the interpersonal semantics of rhetoric by drawing on the comprehensive appraisal framework of systemic functional linguistics (Martin and White 2005) and explores the mechanism of rhetorical persuasion in science communication via appraisal through a case study of the gene-modification (GM) debate in China. It first examines the rhetorical appeals of the subsystems of appraisal and then based on a self-constructed and coded corpus of GM debate discourses, it compares how institutional (the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the Greenpeace Organization) and individual stakeholders (Cui Yongyuan and Fang Zhouzi) of different ideological interests in the GM debate mobilize the interpersonal semantic resources to rhetorical effects to persuade the audience of the safety/danger of the GM technology and products. The analysis reveals that while the opinion leaders choose ‘soft’ persuasion by heavily using affect and judgement resources, the institutions opt for ‘hard’ persuasion by utilizing more appreciation resources. The four parties all prefer contracting resources over expanding resources of engagement, which restricts the space of negotiation. Their communicative motives are interpreted through the lens of the rhetoric theory, and the implications and consequences for science communication in the post-truth era are discussed. Theoretically, the paper contributes to understanding the persuasion mechanism of appraisal and to understanding the science vs. society, and government vs. citizens relationship.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): appraisal; interpersonal semantics; persuasion; rhetoric; the GM debate
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