Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Human Communications

First Advisor

Christina Foust, Ph.D.


Making sense, Rhetorical materialism, Rhetoric and perception


This dissertation dwells on the intersections of language-use and perception. The premise is that language makes literal sense and this reality has profound implications for those Burke called "symbol-using/mis-using animals." Communication scholars have long accepted a model of communication that positions language as "constitutive articulate contact" as opposed to a discrete means of transmission (Stewart, 1994), but a great deal of work remains to be done in terms of developing the implications for individuals and their language-use.

Chapter One explores the stances embraced by rhetorical materialists struggling to describe how language matters. The first chapter fields a series of critiques that essentially argue that a "grounding logic" is needed to organize our understanding of the processes of linguistic sense making. Embodied-embedded cognition serves as that "guiding logic."

Chapter Two explores Embodied-embedded cognition, a counter-perspective to cognitivism - the approach that positions sense-making in a dualistic environment where the sense-able stuff of the "real world" and the sense-maker considering that world are different. Embodied-embedded cognition suggests an "enactive" view of worlding that recruits that attitudes and actions of the sense-maker in determining what ultimately becomes real.

Chapter Three ties these two conversations together through the use of metaphor, arguing that metaphors make sense. Metaphors can be looked at metaphorically, as a form of "grasping" at the world that is remarkably creative as well as abundant. This perspective on metaphors vindicates the stances of embodied embedded thinkers and rhetorical materialists alike that argue that language matters.

Chapters Four and Five speculate on some implications for public speaking pedagogy and ethics. Teaching language as a form of "grasping" changes fundamentally the kind of practice that is necessary to improve. Likewise, noting that the language that we employ has a literal effect on perception transforms the ethical implications of our speaking.

Chapter Five concludes by suggesting a logic of non-violence as a practical and productive response to the ethical demands placed on symbol-users.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Aaron P. Donaldson

File size

201 p.

File format