Strategic Maneuvering Through Persuasive Definitions: Implications for Dialectic and Rhetoric

David Zarefsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In the pragma-dialectical research program, strategic maneuvering refers to processes of seeking rhetorical advantage while meeting one’s dialectical obligations. One principal means of strategic maneuvering is the use of persuasive definitions, those in which connotations are changed while keeping the denotation constant, or vice-versa. Brief examples and an extended case study (the labeling of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as “war”) demonstrate that strategic maneuvering functions analogously, if not identically, in dialectic and rhetoric. This essay, based on a lecture at the University of Amsterdam, was originally published in Argumentation, 20 (2006), 399–416, published by Springer, and is reprinted by permission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArgumentation Library
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

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


  • Dialectic
  • Framing
  • Persuasive definition
  • Pragma-dialectics
  • Strategic maneuvering
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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