Walton’s Model of Argument

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Walton’s Model of Argument

According to Walton (2008: 4/5), the debate that is going to be analyzed in this study can be categorized as a persuasion dialogue. In this type of dialogue, there are two participants, each of whom have a thesis and try to prove it by using the opposite group’s concessions. Each group tries to persuade the other of their thesis, prove the thesis from the premises that the other group is committed to, and accept (Figure 2). In this case, there are two kinds of proof involved: internal and external proof. Internal proof is what has been taken from the other group’s concessions and external proof comes from the introduction of new facts. These facts can be scientific evidence or the opinions provided by experts. In addition to proving the group’s thesis, the persuasion dialogue has another obligation, which is to co-operate with the other group to prove their thesis by giving honest and helpful replies to their questions. The participants in the persuasion dialogue are free to concede any kind of proposition since this dialogue is based on the concessions of the other group.
Furthermore, Walton (2008) introduces two other concepts, which can be found in the present debate, ‘blunder’, and ‘burden of proof’. Blunders are some moves which are not systematic and clever enough to prove a point, but are some errors or lapses which as Walton puts it « damage or weaken the case of their proponent rather than defeating his opponent in the dialogue » (2008: 15). Walton defines burden of proof as « an allocation made in reasoned dialogue which sets a strength (weight) of argument required by one side to reasonably persuade the other side » (1988: 234). If someone moves the burden of proof towards the opposite group, s/he makes an unreasonable movement that supports the claim of the opponents and not the proponents.
The debate that will be studied here is a persuasion dialogue and in these dialogues, each participant is supposed to exclusively use premises that were the other participants’ commitment in the process of development of information. The participants challenge the arguments, which were the commitment of their opponent in order to find strengths and weaknesses of their arguments to challenge them even more. Walton (2008) considers this the only way to have successful argument to provide the strongest arguments possible in order to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent’s arguments.

Interactive Argumentation

Hirsch considers interactive argumentation as an ongoing activity of « collective information processing problem solving » (1989: 2). In this activity, groups of people communicate in order to solve a common problem, which can be conflict of beliefs or interests. The problem solving perspective can be a rewarding way of considering face-to-face interactive argumentation for the students who participate in a debate, for two reasons. Firstly, it is a process nearly like the ideal model of seeking the truth in the everyday life of people where they « make a place for limited rationality. » In this search for truth they challenge a lot with the constraints like time and finally are forced to « make do with a livable second best to the absolute and complete truth » (ibid. 11). Secondly, in this process the participants at least are obliged to indicate that they are endeavoring to solve a shared problem. If they do not at least meet the minimum « ethical and cognitive consideration » to pretend to cooperate in order to solve a problem, the social occasion would easily lose its meaning (ibid. 12). If there is a weak cooperation among people, it indicates that there is only a minimum of ethical and cognitive consideration to make that eligible to be labeled a ‘social occasion’. The goal of this social activity is not to reach a consensus but to learn that this conflict of opinions cannot be resolved by argumentation and they simply can agree to differ with a deeper insight into why the views and interests are incompatible (cf. Hirsch 1986). Since one of the most important aims in learning a language is to be able to handle different ‘social occasions’, they should learn the above-mentioned skills.
Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jacobs, and Jackson (1993: 12) also consider the problem solving process as an « externalization of an individual thought process, abstracting coherent elements » (claim, data and warrant) from the communicative process in which they take place. They also call it ‘an externalization of a social problem solving process’ and they believe that it is dialogic interaction (real or projected), that gives rise to a collaborative structure in an argument. However, their central consideration is the ‘roles of participants’ in an argumentation as ‘protagonist or proponent’ or ‘antagonist or opponent’. They believe that Toulmin’s perspective is partially leading to a socialized perspective on argument because he considers each element in an argument to be a response to a probable query or challenge. However, his perspective (which is based on some questions such as « what do you have to go on? ») can only indicate how the argument hangs together and it cannot describe opposition, seriously (2003: 90). Another model, which is introduced by Eemeren et al., is Perelman and Olberchts-Tyteca’s (1958) view of « universal audience » which provides an abstract perspective on opposition. However, their perspective also lacks « any serious commitment to the collaborative involvement of proponents and opponents in an argumentation » (in Emeren et al. 1993: 13). In Eemeren et al.’s point of view, a genuinely socialized argumentation should draw a distinction between the role of protagonist and antagonist.
The distinction that Eemeren et al. (1993) discuss can be introduced by turn-taking systems, which are a requirement of every face-to-face interactive argumentation. In addition, the development of a problem solving process also greatly depends on turn-taking systems. The debate that is going to be investigated in this study, can be categorized as a ‘dialectical argumentation’ from Hirsch’s point of view. He says, « grounds and evidence are given usually by different persons in the form of a dialogue for and against a claim and/or a counterclaim where the claim and counterclaim are conceived of as being mutually incompatible (they cannot both be true) » (1989: 10). The turn-taking structure which exists in this debate, is an ‘organic turn-taking’. In this structure, turns are not ‘predetermined’ length or order of turns and no « preestablished asymmetrical power relationship between the participants » exists because they are all responsible for solving four problems of turn-taking (getting, keeping, filling and assigning or yielding the turn). This turn-taking structure can indicate how responsibilities and rights of participants can contribute to the development of information in an argument (1989:103).
The characterization of rights and obligations of participants in an argumentation is connected to their roles in the course of activity. The characterization is declaratively oriented in contrast to the formulations of the turn-taking mechanism in conversational analysis, which is procedurally oriented (cf. Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson: 1974).

Co-operativity or Co-construction

Rühl (2001: 154-5) presents two approaches that consider argumentations as social interactions that pursue different aims. The first approach is proposed by Williard (1983, 1989), which considers arguments as social interactions that examine and elaborate knowledge of the world, consensually. The second approach has been developed by Hirsch (1989), which considers arguments as social interactions that help in solving problems interactively and are carried out by collaborating interactors. On the basis of these two approaches, Rühl (2001: 159) develops his own approach since he states that Williard’s way of looking at this issue does not provide necessary tools for the analyst to establish how the arguing process goes step by step and Hirsch’s model needs to be more communicational to fulfill his purposes. Rühl takes the concept of discourse operations introduced by Hirsch because it helps to explain the process of arguing from a Normative Pragmatic point of view: « the arguers’ co-operative step-by-step effort to sort out how they might overcome a communication problem (mainly, a conflict of opinion) » (ibid.). In the present study the students are responsible for persuading the opposite group that they are making a mistake about the time that globalization takes place. They are supposed to co-operate with their groupmates by supporting their claims and challenging the opposite group’s claims to reach the goal of persuasion.


Rühl (2001: 161-5) states that some interactors react to the preceding contributions in a specific way that results in intersubjectification of an individual’s idea, which is a conversion of their first claim. Intersubjectification in some cases works easily and agreement can be unproblematic, but in other cases « considerable interactive argumentative co-operation » such as specifications, topic shifts, and precizations are needed in order to achieve successful intersubjectification (ibid. 164). In some other cases, intersubjectification fails due to a failure to persuade to convert their first claim, thus the problem is not resolved. In this study, there are also some cases of successful or failed conversion of claims, which will be discussed in the following sections.

Local Structure

In a local structure, the participants make decisions about the allocation of turns. Hirsch says that a system of turn-taking is a « local management system which allocates a crucial resource, the turn or control of the ‘floor’, among the participants in the conversation thus giving rise to sequences of turns at talk » (1989: 15). He mentions that the turn-taking system is a local one because it operates at the transition points of the turns, which are at the end of one point, and the beginning of the other turn and no global plan is present to control and govern the interaction. Participants in the debate studied in the present text seem to feel responsible to contribute to the development of the course of the interaction. Hirsch states that the burden of responsibility is greater when it comes to the speaker who is holding the floor and the listener has a smaller share of the burden of responsibility in « contributing to and/or determining the development in the course of the interaction » (1989: 34). However, both speaker and listener perform some actions, which result in clarifying certain points in the process of argument and the clarification can result in an emergent argumentation.

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Emergent Arguments

Rühl (2001:167) mentions some characteristics for emergent arguments. He maintains that arguments contain topic shifts because the arguers think that they need to « submit a certain point to closer scrutiny » and the discourse operations, which are used in this argument are: « precization, specification, exemplification, and conclusion » (ibid. 167). These discourse operations are described below from Hirsch’s (1989) point of view. Although Rühl does not mention logical discourse operations as a characteristic of emergent argument, they will be discussed in the present study since according to Hirsch, they are subclasses of semantic operations and their uses can indicate that arguers are prepared to examine their points more closely. Rühl believes that in an emergent argument, the arguers interact with each other and are willing to modify or give up « part of their own communicative background in order to be able to arrive at a shared view of the position discussed » (ibid. 168). The mentioned goals could be reached by the use of logical operations because as Hirsch states they facilitate « the development in the argumentation toward a solution » (1989: 59).

Discourse Operations

From the problem solving perspective, discourse operations can be referred to as moves that help in « projection and evaluation of solutions to problems or answers to questions » (Hirsch 1989: 58). These ‘abstract’ operations are applied to the information to reach these solutions or answers, in interactive argumentation. Numerous scholars have pointed out these relations and chosen different names for them. Hobbs (1990) proposes the term coherence relations to refer to these operations. Longacre (1976) calls them « combinations of predications » which include comparison, alternation, implication, temporal overlap and succession, contrast, conjunction, and causation. Grimes (1975) and Mann and Thompson (1986) call these relations « rhetorical predicates » and Grimes in his list refers to specification, alternation, attribution, equivalence, and explanation. Fillmore (1974) calls them « sequiturity relations » and Crothers (1979) calls them logical-semantic connectives. Discourse operations from Hirsch’s point of view can be divided into two subcategories: semantic and logical operations.

Semantic Operations

According to Hirsch (1989: 61-65), semantic operations are different ways of delimiting and narrowing down the meaning and intentions or « widening the range of possible interpretations » during the processing of an interactive argument. Semantic operations use the « lower order grammatical categories » to build the « higher order grammatical categories » for example verb phrases and noun phrases combine to make sentences or noun phrases and propositions can make propositional phrases together. Some important semantic operations mentioned by Hirsch include generalization, precisification (Rühl (2001) and Naess (2005) call it precization), paraphrase, specification, elaboration, exemplification, and vaguification.
Hirsch (1989: 67-69) defines some of these operations as follows:
Where A and B are verbal expressions in a given context C; B is a Precisification of A iff1 B is more clearly decidable in its application and non-application to any given entity or phenomenon within a domain than is A.
Where A and B are verbal expressions in a given context C; B or Bi ,…Bn is a Specification of A iff B denotes a class of entities or phenomena, or Bi ,…Bn denote classes of entities or phenomena that are included in the class of entities or phenomena denoted by A.
Where A and B are verbal expressions in a given context C; B is an Exemplification of A iff B mentions a concrete example or case that falls under the general class of instances mentioned in A.
Where A and B are verbal expressions in a given context C; B is an Elaboration of A iff B supports and develops to a greater degree of detail the information conveyed by A, where this information is not exhaustively characterizable in terms of the dimensions of specificity and/or preciseness.
Where A and B are verbal expressions in a given context C; B is a Paraphrase of A iff B expresses the meaning of expression A on more or less the same level of specificity and/or preciseness, where B may be a repetition of A.

Logical Operations

The logical aspect is only a part of meaning and could well be categorized under the category of semantic operations but Hirsch mentions that he treats it as a separate class for the sake of clarity especially since they have the capability of standing alone in a logical proposition, while semantic operations lack this capability. Logical operations, compared to « the logical connectives and operators of propositional logic » include some connecting operations that form units of information into conditional constructions of ‘if…then’, conjunctive constructions such as ‘and’ or ‘but’, disjunctive construction marked by ‘or’, and ‘not’, which functions as the negation operator. Some complex conclusive operations such as ‘because’ and ‘therefore’ can also be in this category (1989: 59).

Data and Methodology

The present study analyzes a debate that lasts around twenty minutes and has been filmed in an English class. The film is one part of around fifty hours of recording of performances of EFL learners in a private language school in Tehran, Iran. Participants of this debate are seven female EFL learners, aged between fifteen and forty who are native speakers of Farsi. Two of them are high school students, two have jobs, and three people are homemakers. The level of these students is ‘intermediate’ and according to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) levels, they are categorized as ‘Independent Users’ (B1)2, who are able to understand the main ideas of conversations that contain the vocabulary used in familiar situations and can deal with them in most of the cases.
In order to debate, the students are divided into two groups: those who think that the global village is going to come about soon (group 1) and those who think that it will not happen soon (group 2). The students have been asked to read a short text on globalization, as the pre-task of a task based activity, therefore they are supposed to have read the same thing, which creates a common background among them. The teacher decides to organize a debate between them which aims at activating the vocabulary and structures that have been taught in a unit of their textbook, Interchange 3 (Richards et al. 2005: 69). They were not given the chance to discuss their arguments beforehand but in the middle of the debate when the teacher notices that they are contradicting each other, she gives them around three minutes to discuss their for and against arguments with their groupmates.
The groups are asked to sit opposite each other to be able to address members of the other group more easily. It could be said that they are sitting in a semi-circle according to the CLT (Communicative Language Teaching method), because the teacher sits between the groups to provide help if necessary (Littlewood 1981:47). She is not supposed to interfere, comment, or allocate turns, unless something special takes place.
The class lasts for around 52 minutes and the debate, which continues for 22 minutes, starts at minute 14:05 and terminates at 36:19. This process has been filmed using a personal camera and the microphone of the same camera has recorded the sound. The camera has been located in front of the class, on the teacher’s desk in order to capture all the students who are participating in the debate. The film was digitized and transcribed according to the transcription conventions of Jefferson (2005). The transcription symbols, which are used here, are provided in appendix A.
By signing permission papers, the students have agreed that these films be used in a scientific research and let the researcher use their voices and pictures. To protect the identity of these students, they will be referred to by the use of the initial letter of their names and the group that they are in, for example, K/G1 can refer to ‘Kathy’ from ‘Group 1’. Therefore, the initials that are used in this study include F, L, N, and B who are in group 1 and Sh, K and Z who have chosen to join group 2.


In the process of this debate, students as members of a group are supposed to support the group’s claims. They should present convincing reasons and as a result try to persuade the other group to change their mind about the ‘time’ that the phenomenon of globalization will be worldwide. Since organic turn-taking takes place in this debate (unlike formal debates turns are not allocated to people by a referee) they take turns and speak in the same manner as an informal discussion. This debate has three sections as Walton (2008: 16) mentions about arguments: opening stage, argumentation stage and closing stage. These stages of Walton’s model are presented in the following section in order to provide a general overview of what occurs in the debate.

Table of contents :

1. Introduction
2.Theoretical Background
2.1 Toulmin’s Layout of Arguments
2.2 Walton’s Model of Argument
2.3 Interactive Argumentation
2.4 Co-operativity or Co-construction
2.5 Intersubjectification
2.6 Local Structure
2.7 Emergent Arguments
2.7.1 Discourse Operations Semantic Operations Logical Operations
3. Data and Methodology
4. Analysis
4.1 Opening Stage
4.2 Argumentation Stage
4.3 Closing Stage
4.4 Co-operativity or Co-construction
4.5 Intersubjectification
4.5.1 Successful Intersubjectification
4.5.2 Intersubjectification after Repair
4.5.3 Failed Intersubjectification
4.6 Local Structure
4.7 Repetition
4.7.1 Repetition of Elements from the Prior Speaker’s Last Turn
4.7.2 Repeated Use of Specific Words
4.8 Dominance and Suppression
4.9 Emergent Arguments
4.9.1 Topic Shifts
4.9.2 Discourse Operations Semantic Operations Precisification Specification Exemplification Elaboration Paraphrase Logical Operations Conditional Construction Conjunctive Disjunctive Negation Conclusion Contrastive Conjunction
5. Discussion
6. Conclusion
Appendix A
Appendix B


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