Jonas Gabrielsen – University of Copenhagen

Jonas Gabrielsen

Associate Professor, PhD, Roskilde University, CBIT

Being an associate professor of Rhetoric and Communication, I find all aspects of persuasive communication highly interesting. Whether the context is national politics, leaders talking to their employees, an academic meeting, a courtroom or a family gathering, I believe that most communication also involves a persuasive element: People do not communicate merely to state facts or express opinions – they communicate, at least to some point, to persuade. They communicate to make the fact they state trustworthy and the opinion they represent understandable. Whether the persuasive layer of communication is a universal layer or a layer reserved to specific contexts, it is this layer that interests me. The core question in my research is therefore: How do you communicate persuasively? And how do you persuade efficiently?

To answer this question I study rhetorical theory and practice. I am primarily inspired by the classical sources of rhetoric: Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian to mention a few. On the practical side, especially oral communication – Public Speaking – has my interest. My interest in legal linguistics is grounded in my teaching at the Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen. Through the last couple of years I have taught rhetoric to students participating in the international moot courts, where students compete in fictitious law cases of various sorts. The moot court JESSUP, for instance, is a simulation of a fictitious dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, where the moot court CISG focuses on international commercial law and arbitration for resolution of international business disputes. Working with these moot courts has shown me that as a rhetorician I can learn a great deal from legal scholars  – and likewise the other way around. Especially the study of argumentation and understanding of orality (as a contrast to written communication) can be further explored in blending the rhetorical and juridical approach.

In my opinion, both rhetoric and law studies have a tendency of being a bit dogmatic in their approach to the various fields of study. Subjects such as argumentation and oral communication are studied separately in the two traditions – even though it is obvious that both traditions would gain substantially from sharing knowledge and experiences between them. What can the field of law learn from, say, the rhetorical teaching of argumentation? And what can rhetoricians learn from, say, the long tradition of oral communication in the court rooms?