In the field of speech communication, research is done into the way people use language for different purposes. At the UvA the emphasis is placed on the exploration of argumentation, whereby the initial focus is on the manner in which the persuasion process occurs in practice. For example: how does a politician convince his electorate, or a doctor his patients? Also examined are the requirements that argumentation should meet in order to be deemed reasonable. An answer to these questions is provided by using theories about language use, persuasion, style and rules of discourse.
Over the last three decades the UvA has developed a theory with which to analyse and evaluate argumentative texts and discussions. This ‘pragma-dialectical’ argumentation theory has acquired an international following. Together with the University of Lugano in Switzerland and the University of Windsor in Canada, the UvA is considered the most prominent university in the field of argumentation theory. Researchers at the UvA are momentarily working on expanding and refining this theory so that the latter can be applied to different contexts such as politics, healthcare and the academia.
The UvA offers a separate Bachelor’s for students interested in language proficiency, argumentation theory and rhetoric. These subjects are dealt with in the courses of the BA taal en communicatie, wherein students also learn a modern foreign language. The course 'language proficiency' is also one of the four specialisations of the BA Nederlandse taal en cultuur.
Furthermore, there are three Master’s programmes in this field of study: the dual Master’s programmes Tekst en communicatie and Discourse and Argumentation Studies, as well as the Research Master’s in Rhetoric, Argumentation Theory and Philosophy.