Harnessing Rhetorical Figures for Argument Mining: A Pilot Study in Relating Figures of Speech to Argument Structure

John Lawrence, Jacobus Visser (Lead / Corresponding author), Chris Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
343 Downloads (Pure)


The generalised, automated reconstruction of the reasoning structures underlying persuasive communication is an enormously challenging task. While this work in argument mining is increasingly informed by the rich tradition of argumentation studies outside the computational field, the rhetorical perspective on argumentation is thus far largely ignored. To explore the application of rhetorical insights in argument mining, we conduct a pilot study on the connection between rhetorical figures and argumentation structure. Rhetorical figures are linguistic devices that perform a variety of functions in argumentative discourse. The textual form of some of these figures is easy to identify automatically, such that an established connection between the figure and a preponderance of argumentative content would improve the performance of argument mining techniques. Furthermore, the automated mining of rhetorical figures could be used as an empirical, corpus-based testing ground for the claims made about these figures in the rhetorical literature. In the pilot study, we explore the connection between eight rhetorical figures the forms of which we expect to be relatively easy to identify computationally, and argumentation structure (concretely, we consider the six schemes ‘anadiplosis’, ‘epanaphora’, ‘epistrophe’, ‘epizeuxis’, ‘eutrepismus’, and ‘polyptoton’, and the two tropes ‘antithesis’ and ‘dirimens copulatio’, and relate their occurrences to relations of inference and conflict). The data of the study is collected in the MM2012c corpus of 39,694 words of argumentatively annotated transcripts from the BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze discussion program. We show that some of the figures indeed correspond to passages of high argumentative density, relative to the text as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-310
Number of pages22
JournalArgument and Computation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • argument mining
  • argumentation structure
  • BBC's Moral Maze
  • rhetorical figures


Dive into the research topics of 'Harnessing Rhetorical Figures for Argument Mining: A Pilot Study in Relating Figures of Speech to Argument Structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this