The rhetorical imprint from a constructivist perspective
De Wet, Johann C.
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The rhetorical imprint, ideal for probing the rhetoric of a single rhetor, is defined as a unified set of characteristics that function at the manifest and latent levels of rhetoric. From a constructivist viewpoint, this concept is indicative of individual conceptual processes and structures. The constructivist lens is derived from George Kelly’s construct theory and his conception of a personal construal system governing human cognition and communication. Constructs develop from primitive constructs derived from human biology, while construct development is bound to embodied experience where the body mediates individual experience and provides content to the primitive constructs. The personal construal system resides in the cognitive unconscious and has a deep-seated and complex metaphorical structure, which is reproduced in the rhetorical imprint. A rhetorical imprint is dynamic and will evolve in concert with the personal construal system to make sense of the world, while remaining internally coherent. In a constructivist understanding of communication, sophisticated personal construal systems produce sophisticated communication, a crucial element of the rhetorical imprint. The rhetorical imprint corresponds to the classical canon of inventio where habitual topoi, metaphorical mental common-places from where available means of persuasion are sought, leave an indelible impression of a rhetor’s individuality in rhetoric.