- The Place of character in speech.
- e thos - n. The disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person,
people, culture, or movement: "They cultivated a subversive alternative ethos" -- American
- Ethos is often associated specifically with the character of the speaker, but this
definition stresses that character may come from the speaker's identification with a
people, a culture, or a movement.
- In strategic discourse a speaker may locate his/her character in a personal characteristic
or in some connection that s/he has with a people, a culture, or a movement.
- The power of strategic discourse is influenced by the ethos of the speaker. A speaker may
enter the rhetorical act with a particular ethos. The power of strategic discourse can be
enhanced by where the speaker locates his/her ethos.
You should be able to locate the ethos that a speaker brings to the rhetorical act. Campbell
and Huxman discuss and define the sources of prior ethos:
- The Speaker's Reputation
- The Speaker's Appearance
- The Introduction
- Other Elements of Context including occasion
Speakers can influence their ethos by things that they do in the discourse. Their are three
dimensions to building character in the discourse:
Dimension of Ethos in the Rhetorical Act
- Identification. Degree to which the audience sees itself similar to the speaker. Speakers can
stress those aspects of their character that they share with the audience.
- Social Power. Degree to which the audience grants authority to the speaker. Speakers can
establish their expertise or their special characteristics that deserve a grant of authority from
- Participation. Degree to which the audience sees itself engaged with the speaker in a
common project. Speakers can motivate audiences to see themselves as a part of a joint
Analyzing the Speaker's Strategic Use of Ethos
These questions will help you analyze the strategic choices in ethos. I don't necessarily recommend that you organize an evaluation of the strategies in this way, but this pattern will help you think through ethos.
- What reputation does the speaker bring to the speech?
- What are the elements of that reputation?
- Does the reputation present obstacles to the speaker? Does the speaker address those obstacles? How? Does he address them well?
- Does the speaker's reputation offer strategic opportunities? Deos teh speaker take advantage of them?
- Does the introduction magnify elements of the reputation?
- Are there elements of the speaker's appearance that add to or detract from ethos?
- What strategies appeal to those elements?
- How do strategies within the speech affect the speaker's reputation?
- What specific strategies increase it? How?
- What specific strategies decrease it? How?
- Does the speaker leave the speech with more or less ethos than when it began?
- How well does the speaker identify with the audience?
- What strategies to identify does the speaker use? Are they successful?
- Does the speaker's ethos influence his/her social power?
- Through his/her reputation?
- Through his/her identification?
- Does the identification and social power create participation by the audience?