Using quotations: Their argumentative uses and their manipulations

Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Quotations are selections of an Original Speaker’s words that can be used for different argumentative purposes, such as supporting a viewpoint through the authority of an expert source, or attacking the interlocutor by confronting him with his past commitments. However, quotations can be also distorted for pursuing different goals. In this chapter, we will outline the various strategies for selecting the quoted part of a speech strategically or even for distorting a quotation. We will show how quotations and misquotations can be closely related to other dialogical tactics, such as, in particular, making explicit or implicit attacks on an opposing position or even on the interlocutor himself. The various strategies of selective quotation point out how it is difficult to draw a clear line between quoting and misquoting. Any quotation is itself a selection, which can be used strategically. Some distortion is inevitable. What is crucial is to understand what “significant” distortion amounts to. We point out how this notion can be assessed by determining the conclusion the quotation is alleged to support, and the conclusion that the original utterance was aiming at backing or leading to. We explain how it is possible to evaluate distortions in quotations beginning with comparing the alleged and actual conclusions of an argument.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterpreting Straw Man Argumentation -
Subtitle of host publicationThe Pragmatics of Quotation and Reporting
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9783319625447
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event1st International Conference in Pragmatics and Philosophy, 2016 - Palermo, Italy
Duration: 16 May 201616 May 2016

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy and Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


Conference1st International Conference in Pragmatics and Philosophy, 2016


  • Argumentation
  • Commitments
  • Dialectics
  • Pragmatics
  • Quotation
  • Straw man


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