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Rhetorical Analysis and Italian Subculture
There is only one thing that truly unites every person on this planet. There is only one thing that allows expression and connection. There is only one thing that breathes through each of us, and truly defines who we are: language. Language allows us to communicate with one another, and it also helps us identify with our culture and our roots. In Italy, language plays an incredibly important role as it has turned into something that unified a once divided nation. Stefano Jossa, an Italian author, describes the importance of language in Italy in his book titled La Più Bella del Mondo: Perché Amare la Lingua Italiana, which translates to “the most beautiful in the world: why we love the Italian language.” In his book, Jossa uses the four rhetorical appeals – ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos – to convince his readers that Italian truly is a beautiful language and is an important part of Italian Culture.
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Ethos is defined as being an appeal to ethics. Ethos establishes credibility of the author or speaker in a rhetorical situation and proves to the audience that the author/speaker is worth listening to, as they know what they are talking about. While most authors will simply put a short blurb at the beginning of their books that provide background information on themselves to establish this credibility, Stefano Jossa takes a different approach. At the very beginning of his book, he has an introduction in which he discusses language and what it really means, and he provides examples of why language is something that defines us. He opens up with a rather beautiful quote that reads, “Language development is part of personality development because words are the natural means of expressing thought and establishing understanding and among men” (Jossa, 2018, p. 1). From there, Jossa describes several situations in which people experienced foreign accent syndrome. In these rare cases, people who experience accidents or trauma had suddenly began speaking with an accent they had no prior knowledge of and can no longer get rid of. When these people lost their accents, they felt deeply disturbed and separated from their own culture. Jossa uses these experiences, which he showed that he researched heavily, to preface his argument. In order to let his readers know that they should listen to his argument and believe what he says, he establishes that he knows what language means to people, and how deeply it affects them and their identity if it is somehow lost.
Unlike ethos, pathos, the appeal to emotion, is laced throughout Jossa’s argument. In order to make his readers relate to him, and feel what he feels, he often expresses his love for language. He shares what it is to love something, and why language itself is no exception. He also says that because Italian is his native language he loves it the most, and that all of us should love our own language the most as well. In one particularly defining line, Jossa (2018) writes, “For each of us, then, the most beautiful language in the world will be yours. Beauty is soft and tastes are not discussed. But actually the language is…a partner to whom we entrust our secrets and together with whom we face life” (p. 7). Jossa seems to compare language to a loved one or a significant other, which as a result makes his readers understand the feelings he has for language, and the feelings they should have towards language. In his emotional appeal, his readers are able to sympathize and feel the same feelings he experiences toward language, which are those of great love. His feelings also make his argument more relatable. Because we know what it is to love something, we know that his love for language would mean he wants to do it justice in his writing. He does not want to show his love for Italian just to sell books, but instead wishes to share something beautiful and real with his readers. He wishes to convince us that a language is more than what we previously thought it to be.
Logos, the appeal to logic, essentially is the use of facts and evidence to make an argument more convincing. Jossa uses factual evidence to enhance his argument multiple times throughout his work. At the beginning, as mentioned previously, he uses actual stories of people with foreign accent syndrome. He even provides a direct quote from an interview at one point of someone expressing their feelings of loss of identity after dealing with this syndrome. Later on in his writing, Jossa describes how the Italian language came to be. He explains, “It is not only because it was built almost at the table over time by three great men…who at different times took charge of thinking of a national language for Italians” (Jossa, 2018, p. 23). The Italian language is actually something that was created fairly recently. Before Italy was unified, it was divided into separate small regions, each with its own culture and dialect. Because of this, Italians learned to use hand gestures and signals in order to communicate with each other. When Italy was unified, however, a language was created and caught on quickly. While in the various regions there are still separate accents and slang used, the new method of communication proved to be successful and loved all around. Any Italian would express their love for their language, and Jossa is certainly no exception. In using this fact, and mentioning a lesser known aspect of Italian history, Jossa provides sound reasoning to his readers. His argument, which is that Italian is a beautiful language, is even more believable now that his audience knows that it was made to bring the Italian people together.
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The final Aristotelean Appeal, called kairos, is seen more indirectly in Jossa’s work. While it seems like Italy has been around forever, it was actually unified fairly recently in 1871. For some perspective, the University of Arizona was established in 1885. Kairos, the appeal to timeliness, revolves around the idea of “striking the metal while it’s hot.” When kairos is most effectively used in a rhetorical argument, the argument will address something that occurred recently to make it more relevant for an audience. Despite the fact that it has been over 100 years since the unification of Italy and the creation of the Italian language, it is still relevant for readers today. At this point in time, with the internet allowing things to be easily accessible, Jossa will be able to make an argument that everyone could potentially listen to. Jossa has a much wider audience that he could reach, and he can use it to his advantage. Jossa is also reaching an audience at a time in which acceptance and cultural understanding is very important. More and more people are trying to understand various cultures so that they do not accept incorrect stereotypes or negative misconceptions about people from different backgrounds. Jossa will be able to reach this audience, and teach them about his language, which is something that they might know nothing about, but something they are willing to learn. Jossa truly does appeal to timeliness, as quotes such as, “Language is therefore a refuge, a home of the heart, where it finds all that we do not find in the world” (Jossa, 2018, p. 14), will reach the ever-changing and more accepting people of the present.
Stefano Jossa’s book, La Più Bella del Mondo: Perché Amare la Lingua Italiana, contains all of the elements that allow for an effective rhetorical argument. He appeals to ethos both in his own speaking of Italian, and in his research to preface his main points. He appeals to pathos in his poetic, descriptive analyses of what language is to him, and how it should make all of us feel. He appeals to logos in his use of facts about the language itself, and in his evidence of how loss of language can negatively affect lives. He appeals to kairos in reaching an audience that is willing to learn and willing to understand. Jossa, by the end of his work, truly has his readers convinced that Italian is, truly, a beautiful language, and an important aspect of Italy’s culture.
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