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Cultural Keywords in Arguments. The Case of Interactivity1

Cultural keywords are words that are revealing of a culture’s beliefs or values. As such they are typically associated with evaluative connotations. Keywords have been said to play a significant role in arguments, with some authors seeing their persuasive use as opposed to logical argumentation. Here we develop a theoretical approach to keywords that was first proposed by Rigotti & Rocci (2005) through a case study of a keyword of contemporary cyberculture: interactivity. Keywords are words that play a twofold role in enthymematic arguments: (a) from a logical point of view they appear as termini medi; (b) from a communicative point of view they point to endoxa in the cultural common ground. The paper applies this model to the words interactive and interactivity, using argumentative indicators to extract a corpus of argumentatively relevant occurrences from the Internet. The investigation shows that keywords can be used to provide evidence supporting the reconstruction of tacit premises in enthymemes. It also shows that a keyword such as interactivity is vague and polysemous and yet characterized by a persisting positive connotation across different meanings. This seems to allow a shallow strategy of premise recovery in enthymemes where the persistent connotation provides a rough and ready justification for ad hoc premises.

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