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Rhetoric is the art of discourse, wherein a writer or speaker strives to inform, persuade or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the European tradition. Its best known definition comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." Rhetoric typically provides heuristics for understanding, discovering, and developing arguments for particular situations, such as Aristotle's three persuasive audience appeals, logos, pathos, and ethos. The five canons of rhetoric, which trace the traditional tasks in designing a persuasive speech, were first codified in classical Rome: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Along with grammar and logic (or dialectic—see Martianus Capella), rhetoric is one of the three ancient arts of discourse.
From Ancient Greece to the late 19th century, it was a central part of Western education, filling the need to train public speakers and writers to move audiences to action with arguments. The word is derived from the Greek ῥητορικός rhētorikós, "oratorical", from ῥήτωρ rhḗtōr, "public speaker", related to ῥῆμα rhêma, "that which is said or spoken, word, saying", and ultimately derived from the verb ἐρῶ erō, "I say, I speak".
Scholars have debated the scope of rhetoric since ancient times. Although some have limited rhetoric to the specific realm of political discourse, many modern scholars liberate it to encompass every aspect of culture. Contemporary studies of rhetoric address a more diverse range of domains than was the case in ancient times. While classical rhetoric trained speakers to be effective persuaders in public forums and institutions such as courtrooms and assemblies, contemporary rhetoric investigates human discourse . Rhetoricians have studied the discourses of a wide variety of domains, including the natural and social sciences, fine art, religion, journalism, digital media, fiction, history, cartography, and architecture, along with the more traditional domains of politics and the law. Many contemporary approaches treat rhetoric as human communication that includes purposeful and strategic manipulation of symbols. Public relations, lobbying, law, marketing, professional and technical writing, and advertising are modern professions that employ rhetorical practitioners.
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