Discourse Functions Of Rhetorical Devices In Selected Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters In Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Nigeria

ABSTRACT

The pastoral letter, an open letter addressed by a bishop to members of his diocese

for the purpose of promoting faith and good Christian living, constitutes a persuasive

religious discourse characterised by numerous rhetorical devices. Previous studies on

Christian religious languagehave concentrated mainly on sermons, liturgy, prayers,

theology, scriptures, hymns, and songs to the exclusion of the persuasive power of pastoral

letters. This study, therefore, examined themes and rhetorical devices in selected Roman

Catholic bishops‘ pastoral letters in the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, with a view

todetermining their persuasive discourse functions.

Aristotelian Rhetoric, which emphasises persuasion through three main rhetorical

appeals: logos,pathos,andethos was adopted as the framework.Data were drawn from 10

pastoral letters of five Roman Catholic bishops in five dioceses (two letters from each)

where pastoral letters are published regularly, out of the seven in Onitsha Province. These

were Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka, Enugu, and Awgudioceses. The letters, published between

2000 and 2010 and ranging between 20 and 104 pages, were purposively selected based on

consistency, thematic preoccupations, and rhetorical content. Data weresubjected to

discourse analysis.

Four major themes: faith, repentance, love, and loyalty to the Roman Catholic

Church were identified. There were three categories of rhetorical devices: logos-based

(logic), pathos-based (emotions), and ethos-based (character). There were 10 logos-based

devices: use of testimonial reference functioning as authority to validate messages;

deductive and inductive reasoningappealing to the rationality of the audience; definitions

establishing a common ground for arguments; comparison (analogy/metaphor) for

explanations to ensure comprehension; nominalisation and passivisation objectifying the

validity of ideas; syntactic parallelism and antithesis emphasising ideas for easy grasp; and

obligation/necessity modals appealing to the audience‘s sense of responsibility and moral

duty. Eight pathos-based deviceswere used: Igbo language expressing solidarity with the

audience; prayersinspiring them; inclusive pronoun (we) creating a feeling of belonging,

collectivism and oneness; rhetorical questions (RQs) appealing todenominationalsentiments;

sarcasm, segregation pronoun (they), and negative emotion-laden words referring to non-

Catholic groups to create distaste for non-Catholic faith; feminine pronoun (she) and

positive emotion-laden words referring to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) to keep the

audience emotionally attached to it.Finally, seven devices characterised ethos: use of firstiii

person singular pronoun (I), declaratives, and imperatives invoking the authority of the

bishops‘ office; Latinisms showing learnedness; greetings and appreciation expressing

goodwill; and exemplary Biblical characters as models of faith, repentance, and love. All

the devices in the three categories related to the four themes except RQs, the pronouns they,

she, and emotion-laden words, relating to loyalty. Comparatively, logos-based devices

preponderated over pathos- and ethos-based ones reflecting emphasis of the RCC on reason

as the basis for faith.

Roman Catholic bishops‘ pastoral letters in the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province were

characterised by a preponderance of logos-based rhetorical devices, and a widespread use of

pathos- and ethos-based ones,designed to communicate messages of faith, repentance, love,

and loyalty, and persuade the audience to live accordingly.The rhetorical devices, therefore,

establish the pastorals as a significant form of persuasive religious discourse.

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APA

OKAFOR, V (2021). Discourse Functions Of Rhetorical Devices In Selected Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters In Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Nigeria. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/discourse-functions-of-rhetorical-devices-in-selected-roman-catholic-bishops-pastoral-letters-in-onitsha-ecclesiastical-province-nigeria

MLA 8th

OKAFOR, VIRGINIA "Discourse Functions Of Rhetorical Devices In Selected Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters In Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Nigeria" Afribary. Afribary, 21 Apr. 2021, https://afribary.com/works/discourse-functions-of-rhetorical-devices-in-selected-roman-catholic-bishops-pastoral-letters-in-onitsha-ecclesiastical-province-nigeria. Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

MLA7

OKAFOR, VIRGINIA . "Discourse Functions Of Rhetorical Devices In Selected Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters In Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Nigeria". Afribary, Afribary, 21 Apr. 2021. Web. 20 Jul. 2024. < https://afribary.com/works/discourse-functions-of-rhetorical-devices-in-selected-roman-catholic-bishops-pastoral-letters-in-onitsha-ecclesiastical-province-nigeria >.

Chicago

OKAFOR, VIRGINIA . "Discourse Functions Of Rhetorical Devices In Selected Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters In Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Nigeria" Afribary (2021). Accessed July 20, 2024. https://afribary.com/works/discourse-functions-of-rhetorical-devices-in-selected-roman-catholic-bishops-pastoral-letters-in-onitsha-ecclesiastical-province-nigeria