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The Rhetoric of University Lecturing and its Evolution in the Western Academic Community

Decheva Svetlana Vladimirovna

ORCID: 0000-0001-5100-582X

Doctor of Philology

Professor, English Department of the Philological Faculty, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119991, Russia, Moscow, Leninskie Gory str., 1, p. 51

Aristova Dar'ya Dmitrievna

ORCID: 0000-0002-2297-9198

Postgraduate student, English Department of the Philological Faculty, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119991, Russia, Moscow, Leninskie Gory str., 1, p. 51










Abstract: The article deals with the evolution of the rhetoric of academic communication in the genre of university lecturing. The main emphasis is laid on its socio-cultural, historical, psychological and phonetic antecedents beginning with the times of antiquity to these days. It is the speaking image of the lecturer and those rhetorical means that facilitate ones interaction with the university audience that come into focus. The task is to show how knowledge is shared via university lecturing with respect to traditions of public speaking and the linguoculturological realia of this or that epoch. In other words, what comes to the fore in this paper is continuity and optimization of intellective communication in the present-day Global English space. The main conclusion the authors arrive at is that to introduce any changes in the non-native speakers rhetoric of academic discourse a really comprehensive cognitive processing of the genre of lecturing is required. Different aesthetic and ethical aspects of academic English are to be taken into account and weighed up from different angles, including its innovative phonostylistic design in the West and the traditions of intellective communication in other parts of the globe.


phonostylistics, lecturing style, English academic discourse, speaking culture, intellective communication, university lecture, American public speaking, British publich speaking, prosodic minimum, speaking image

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IntroductionThis article provides a linguoculturological and rhetorical digression into the most important stages of the evolutionary development of the lecture genre.

The fact is that against the background of the development of digital technologies that facilitate the transfer and receipt of information, communication is becoming more and more free and not bound by traditional ideas about the norm. In these conditions, scientific communication, especially in Western universities, is increasingly carried out with an attitude of equality and tolerance, stylistic reduction and interactivity of the learning process.

In the genre of lectures, this is manifested most fully, since there is a need to constantly take into account changes in the speech-thinking features and stereotypes of a new generation of students and correspond to their usual manner of communication. The accents are shifting and there is a transition to the relaxed, youth rhetoric more familiar to the modern university audience.

Thus, the study of those evolutionary transformations that took place at various stages of the development and formation of the genre of lecture we are considering seems appropriate, since it becomes possible not only to identify the main factors involved in the formation of this kind of scientific communication, but also to trace and justify the phonostylistic changes taking place in it today.

1. Ancient rhetoric as the basis for the formation of the genre of university lecturesThe cultural and historical background of the lecture genre as it is known now can be traced back to the time of the ancient philosophers.

Their achievements in the field of education and optimal transfer of knowledge served as a starting point for the development of science in all subsequent epochs. It was during antiquity that the idea of allocating the highest level of education and transmitting information within the framework of a meeting of gifted youth was put forward.

Nevertheless, there was no generally accepted way of addressing students at that time, and at least two main trends in the organization of this kind of activity can be traced: the teaching of the sophists, focused on the so-called rhetorical education, which was approved as a social and cultural norm, and the advanced dialogical method of Socrates for that time.

As for the first approach, it was a full-fledged pedagogical practice that had applied significance: the learning process was aimed at developing the skills of expressiveness of speech in all kinds of philosophical, political or judicial disputes. One of the most popular methods of sophists was the reproduction of phrases and expressions (speech cliches), which contributed to the best transmission of the main intention of the speaker and had an impact on listeners. The course of lectures necessarily included a set of exemplary speeches presented to students for detailed analysis and skillful imitation in both written and oral speech.

In contrast, the main task of the Socratic method was the active involvement of students in the process of cognition. This approach gave a new tone to intelligent communication, based on the search for truth and learning through conversation.In this quest to know the truth, the line between the privileged status of the teacher and the subordinate position of the student was blurred. The information was not submitted in a ready-made form, but was comprehended by all participants during a free and equal discussion. This was due to Socrates' rhetorical skill, which was based on the use of carefully thought-out leading questions designed to force those present to come to conclusions corresponding to his intention.

It is interesting to note that this approach to learning turns out to be productive in the modern academic environment formed with the widespread use of digital technologies. The principle of dialogue as a whole corresponds to the modern culture of scientific speech, which involves the redistribution of the three components of the rhetorical triad put forward by Aristotle, namely: ethos (relevance of utterance in accordance with the needs of the audience), logos (reliance on figures and facts testifying to the reliability of information) and pathos (expressiveness and rhetorical message aimed at emotional involvement audience).

Currently, pathos is put at the forefront, which, depending on the genre of public speech, is often given more than half of the entire speech. It is important that pathos is not just individual techniques of speech expressiveness, but also the installation of the socalled narrativity as one of the ways of the speaker's conscious design of his speech behavior, which best corresponds to his intentions and expectations of the target audience and allows him to enlist a momentary emotional response from her side [1, pp. 44-47].

Narrative refers to the inclusion in the presentation of the material of personal stories or examples related to the topic of the speech, which are designed for empathy on the part of the addressee and are designed to clarify complex and abstract concepts. Neuropsychological experiments show that when the narrative is turned on, certain areas of the brain are simultaneously activated in both the speaker and the listener. All brain resources are involved, which are responsible not only for the speech center, but also for the motor and sensory areas, which makes it possible to synchronize the mental activity of participants in the speech act. Thus, the use of narrative in public speech contributes to the establishment of what scientists call brain-to-brain coupling[2].

In this sense, we can say that Socrates' dialogues were in many ways the prototype of an interactive form of education, which is increasingly asserting itself in the academic environment, meeting the needs of young people in learning with elements of entertainment and conforming to a personality-oriented model of education. However, in the course of historical development, this form of interaction has repeatedly undergone significant changes and at one time seemed to have been completely lost. At a later stage, the achievements of antiquity were revised taking into account the new realities and the spread of Christianity in Western Europe, when a different approach to the comprehension of knowledge was developed. In the first medieval universities in Bologna and Paris, a method of teaching in the form of a lecture was established, which was entirely predetermined by the priority position of the Christian religion and the Church in all types of human activity [3, p. 83].

2. The peculiarity of the speech image of a university lecturer in the Middle AgesIn the Middle Ages, as a rule, the existence of two interrelated and complementary pedagogical practices is noted [4, p. 142].

On the one hand, this is actually a lecture (l ectio, or a reading), and on the other the so-called dispute (or disputatio). The first meant a thorough reproduction of the canonical text, which was literally dictated from the pulpit. So, initially, the genre of the lecture assumed reading aloud and presenting the text in an extremely accurate and clear, full pronunciation style. This was explained by the fact that the main task of the learning process at the early stage of the development of universities was the preservation and dissemination of divine knowledge contained in a handwritten source.

This, in turn, caused the existence of strict prohibitions concerning improvisation when reproducing the canonical text or deviations from it.A lecture at a medieval university was akin to a sermon by a clergyman who acted as a guide of divine wisdom.As a result, in phonetic terms, it was a slow, clear and monotonous dictation of the text, which was completely recorded by students and learned by heart.Such a painstaking process not only contributed to the preservation of the religious and literary heritage of that time, but was also one of the most optimal ways of transmitting knowledge.

Attention is also drawn to the way in which the educational process was organized at the medieval university. The reading text was located on the lectern, which was located in the center of the hall, and towered over the rows of students. This arrangement assumed a strict distribution of roles between reading and writing the text. The position of the former was dominant, while the latter were expected to unquestioningly follow church dogmas.

Nevertheless, compliance with such religious canons in life has not always been fully realized. From the point of view of modern research on the psychology of speech [5, p. 130-133], one of the main reasons may have been that the features of human consciousness to the perception and processing of the transmitted speech message were not taken into account at that time. A person's attention is always quite selective and focuses only on the part of the speech message that excites his consciousness and contradicts the neutral (unmarked) and expected prosodic design of the utterance.

This explains that one of the main requirements of public speaking nowadays is considered to be a special ratio of existing phonation means, which leads to the breakdown of the methods of accentuation established in the language, due to which the so-called "aftereffect effect" may occur, positively affecting the perception of information by the listener [6, p. 124]. Any unusual ways of phonetic organization of utterance can be used to violate the monotonous nature of the utterance, it is no coincidence that variability is one of the main requirements of rhetorically acceptable speech [7, pp. 76-91].

As for the presentation of lecture material adopted in the Middle Ages, which was distinguished by the complete absence of any expressive-emotional-evaluative overtones on the part of the speaker, it did not always contribute to the concentration of students' attention. Perhaps that is why the medieval miniatures easily show an ambiguous reaction to the speech of the speakers from the student audience, which differs little from what is accepted today.

3. Phonostylistic features of university lectures in Europe in the XVXVII centuriesSince the middle of the XV century, the presentation of the material at the lecture has undergone changes due to the invention of printing: strict reproduction of the text, not violated by any personal explanations, ceased to be the only way of transmitting scientific information.

Already at that time, some thinkers were wondering about the need for the participation of "elders" (university professors) in the educational process, since printed works became an additional source of knowledge [8, p. 66]. As a result, although the number of students at the lecture has not decreased yet, taking notes of the presented material, rather than its verbatim recording, has become increasingly popular.

In addition, despite the preservation of the dominant position of the university lecturer in the audience, in Renaissance culture his role ceased to be limited only to the function of an impersonal translator of information and began to acquire a somewhat more individualized character of a commentator of a scientific message. This is due to the new perception of glosses, which were originally intended to help the lecturer in communicating unfamiliar and complex concepts. The use of glosses became more free, and they began to act as a tool for personal, "authorial" interpretation of the topic [9, p. 148].

So there was a gradual transition from sequential, slow and linear reading aloud to more spontaneous forms of lecturing. Already in the middle of the XVI century. the lecture provided for the presence of two equal parts of the presentation of the material. The first 30 minutes were actually reading (dictation) of the text, and the next half hour was devoted to an in-depth analysis of the topic with the help of gloss [3, p. 83]. Although not all universities accepted this format as the only possible one, it is obvious that the attitude to the lecture as a word-by-word reproduction of the information given in the book was less and less welcomed in the university environment.

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The article "The rhetoric of a university lecture and its evolution in the Western academic environment" presented for consideration, proposed for publication in the journal "Litera", is undoubtedly relevant, due to the small number of scientific papers in Russian philology devoted to the study of this problem. This article provides a linguistic, cultural and rhetorical excursion into the most important stages of the evolutionary development of the lecture genre. These problematic issues are what the author tries to solve in the course of his work, based on the work of his predecessors. The author conducts research at the junction of linguistics proper - rhetoric and philosophical understanding of language. Is the practical research material taken by the author not completely clear? The author does not specify the sample size on which the work is based. The objectives of the study are not clear, which does not allow us to compare the conclusions with the starting point of the study set by the author and compare them with the conclusions obtained. The author provides both theoretical data from other researchers and his own classification of the identified features. Structurally, we note that this work was done professionally, in compliance with the basic canons of scientific research. The research was carried out in line with modern scientific approaches, the work consists of an introduction containing a statement of the problem, a mention of the main researchers of this topic, the main part, traditionally beginning with a review of theoretical sources and scientific directions, research and final, which presents the conclusions obtained by the author. The disadvantages include the lack of clearly defined tasks in the introductory part, the ambiguity of the methodology and the course of the study. The bibliography of the article contains 24 sources, including both works in Russian and in a foreign language. To the technical error in the design of the bibliography, we attribute a violation of the generally accepted principle of library GOST. So, the reason for the violation of the generally accepted alphabetical arrangement of the list of references is not clear. In addition, the author mixes Russian-language works and works in a foreign language, which, traditionally, are placed after domestic sources. The practical significance of the research lies in the possibility of using its results in the process of teaching university courses in philology and rhetoric. In general, it should be noted that the article is written in a simple, understandable language for the reader. Typos, spelling and syntactic errors, inaccuracies in the text of the work were not found. The comments made are not significant and do not affect the content. The work is innovative, representing the author's vision of solving the issue under consideration and may have a logical continuation in further research. The article will undoubtedly be useful to a wide range of people, philologists, undergraduates and graduate students of specialized universities. The article "The rhetoric of a university lecture and its evolution in the Western academic environment" can be recommended for publication in a scientific journal.