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Principles of training communicators. It may entail the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times, and it can also involve the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. Classical rhetoric probably developed along with democracy in Syracuse (Sicily) in the 5th century BC, when dispossessed landowners argued claims before their fellow citizens. Shrewd speakers sought help from teachers of oratory, called rhetors. This use of language was of interest to philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle because the oratorical arguments called into question the relationships among language, truth, and morality. The Romans recognized separate aspects of the process of composing speeches, a compartmentalization that grew more pronounced with time. Renaissance scholars and poets studied rhetoric closely, and it was a central concern of humanism. In all times and places where rhetoric has been significant, listening and reading and speaking and writing have been the critical skills necessary for effective communication.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on rhetoric, visit Britannica.com.