The speaker may choose to connect his or her own argumentative line to a counter-discourse that he or she knows or anticipates and, in any case, rejects. The prolepsis steals the argument from the mouth of the (real or fictitious) opponent, “I know (perhaps better than you) what you are going to say”. The counter-discourse is resumed with an indefinite degree of distortion, from a literal referenced quotation to a sketchy evocation of a possible objection, which may be framed as a self-refuting scarecrow, S. Speech Resumption At the very least, the quoted speech is extracted and re-adjusted in view of the new discursive environment, and its ethotic force is kept at bay. Through the magic of quotation, an intended refutation becomes a mere objection.

The degree to which the counter-discourse is rejected is itself variable. The counter-discourse may be radically rejected; dismissed as absurd (“do we intend to ruin all small savers? No, quite the contrary, and for many reasons…”), or maintained in full force, until further information becomes available. In this sense, the Modal-Rebuttal component of argumentation is a special case of prolepsis, S. Layout of argument.

The proleptic structure covers not only coordinated or subordinated pairs of statements but any discourse pattern whose configuration corresponds to the staging of two anti-oriented discourses, the speaker taking responsibility for one of them; it represents the maximum development of monological argumentation, S. Connective; Destruction; Concession; Refutation.


Several rhetorical terms refer to this same structure:

— The anteoccupation refers to a refutative structure, composed of a prolepsis, which evokes the position of the opponent, followed by an hypobole, which refutes this position or expresses the position supported by the speaker (Molinié 1992, [Anteoccupation]). Lausberg ([1963], § 855) terms this same strategy preoccupation (Latin prefixes pre-, ante- “in advance”).

— The procatalepsis and the metathesis refer to a discursive configuration by which the speaker “reminds listeners of past events, presents to them the facts to come, foresees objections” (Larousse, quoted in Dupriez 1984, p. 290; Metathesis has another quite distinct meaning, “swapping two sounds or letters of a word”).