Pragma-Dialectical Analysis of Rhetorical Texts: The Case of Barack Obama in Cairo with Dima Mohammed

David Zarefsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The theory of pragma-dialectics has been developed largely with respect to dialectical argumentation, with dialogue between two interlocutors as a model. Rhetorical argument is significantly different, in that it is heterogeneous, large, and non-interactive. If the tools of pragma-dialectics can also be applied to the analysis of rhetorical texts, then the potential reach of the theory is broadened considerably. This possibility is explored through examination of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009. Special attention is given to audience commitments, standpoint analysis, and strategic maneuvering. Results suggest that pragma-dialectics can be applied to rhetorical texts, although it is not always the most efficient or productive approach. This essay originally appeared in Keeping in touch with pragma-dialectics, a festschrift to Frans van Eemeren upon his retirement (E. Feteris, B. Garssen, and F. Snoeck Henkemans, Ed.) (pp. 89–102), published in 2011. It is reprinted by permission of John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArgumentation Library
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameArgumentation Library
ISSN (Print)1566-7650
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1907


  • Argument diagrams
  • Barack Obama
  • Cairo speech
  • Pragma-dialectics
  • Standpoint analysis
  • Strategic maneuvering
  • U.S.-Muslim world relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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