Rhetorical Analysis on Deborah Tannen's Argument Culture

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A Move towards Better Communication

Deborah Tannen graduated from The University of California, Berkely, M.A. in 1979 with her PHD in Linguistics. She is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. Tannen has written many books where she applies her theory of Linguistics to everyday situations. Some of her books are: That’s Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationship (1986), Talking from 9 to 5: How Women’s and Men’s Conversational Styles Affect Who Gets Heard (1994), The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue(1998), and I Only Say This Because I Love You (2001). In an essay from the book, The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialouge, Tannen discusses the controversy in the world when it comes to communication. Tannen focuses this essay on the way that society has used adversarial debates to create problems with communication. Tannen writes about how we think of arguments at “war or a fight” (Tannen, 404). Tannen believes that “we would be much more successful if we didn’t always think of argument as a war or a fight but as a dialogue among a variety of different positions.” (403). She also explains how high tech communication has affected the way society communicates and is pulling us apart. This rhetorical analysis will discuss Deborah Tannen’s ideas and how she was trying to make the society view all sides of this problem, and why we as a society need to work on changing our ways to make the future better.

Tannen begins this essay with questioning “noble American traditions” (403). This is where attention is grabbed and makes you want to read more about what traditions are in question. This is a formal essay that brings up many situations in everyday life that really makes you stop and think about this problem. In the beginning of one paragraph she states “More and more, our public interactions have become more like arguing with a spouse” (404). This brings up the thought of disagreements you have with your spouse, you try to find ways to solve the problem without hurting one another. As a society we need to be able to express our conflicts openly, but we need to find ways to settle our differences without hurting one another. As a society we all need to make the difference, it can not only be one person.

Tannen uses a formal tone to get her points across in this essay, the main points that she wants to get across are in quotes and in the essay in a few different places. She makes you stop and think of how you react when you are in a difficult situation, do you argue back, or do you stop and try to look at “all sides”? She is trying to convey that point that society looks at “both sides” of an argument and not “all sides”. She continually tries to get the point across to not only have two people when debating and to ask questions like what are all side of the issue not only what are the two sides.

Tannen then talks about how war metaphors are shaping the way we think. She brings up that the headlines on two popular magazines were recently: “The Secret Sex Wars” proclaims Newsweek and “Starr at War,” declares Time” (404). Winning or losing in not the way our lives should be framed. Tannen brings up that “most Americans’ views lie somewhere in the middle” (405). Tannen is attempting to teach the readers that there are more than two sides to an argument and that we need to stop and think about this.

In the essay Tannen goes from explaining war metaphors to talking about solicitors calling your house when you sit down to eat dinner. She states “along with the voices of family members and friends, phone lines bring into our homes the annoying voices of solicitors who want to sell something-generally at dinnertime” (406). The examples that she uses gets the reader’s attention because we can all relate, no American can say they have never had this happen to them. She uses a good tone in this essay that does...
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