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Spoken language- A study of a public figure- Barack Obama
In this study, I will be analysing two speeches of Barack Obama in two different contexts. The first is
his victory acceptance on November 5th 2008. The second is when he is elected as the Democratic US
Senate. I will identify some of the common characteristics of pre-meditated political speeches and
highlight the differences between the linguistic features commonly present in both of the speeches.
In Minnesota, Obama predominantly focuses on his intention to persuade voters to turn out to vote
and to make the audience foster general political or social attitudes, so we can approve a given
policy. In the Chicago speech, Obama's purpose is to sustain his votes and instil faith in him. He does
this by reinforcing an argument to promote that America can change and has changed.
The intended audience of Obama's speech is initially to America, but to the rest of the world. This is
because Obama is the President of USA, which holds the most power in the world. The purpose of his
speech is to persuade the American citizens that he will make change to America. He uses facts and
opinions, in Chicago to emphasise the changes being made. This has been evident when he says, "Yes
we can", the word "yes" is a positive influence on the audience and resonates with what Obama
Obama must give a reasonable understanding to the listener by making inferences based on
knowledge. Many people have different inferences and receive different understandings of the
same political speech. Obama must adjust his speech, so the audience can get a feel for the
fundamental basis of the speech. Also Obama must alter his speech rate, so that it is understandable
for the listener and by means the listener making inferences.
Grice proposed four basic conversation rules as criteria for successful conversation; they are Maxims
of manner, relation, quality and quantity. Obama hasn't violated any of the maxims in Chicago.
However, he has violated maxim of manner in Minnesota, as he hesitates and uses fillers to result in
the speech sounding authentic and spontaneous.
Barack Obama's accent doesn't alienate the audience; it is not strong or weak American accent. Also,
his dialect is Standard English and it's hard to decipher which state he comes from.
In Chicago, Obama appears aesthetically pleasing and wears all the colours of the American flag. He is
a living flag and shows that he is representing America.
In the Chicago speech, Obama's tone begins and ends with a crescendo, this shows that he is
confident and determined. His words are full of emotion and conviction, this show's that Obama is
meaningful about what he says through his tone and pitch at various times. E.g. when he says "Ann
Nixon Cooper is 106 years old" he says it with a booming voice, to emphasise his point and making
the ordinary into extraordinary.
In Chicago, Obama's speech is 2:41 seconds long, as he has more to say to America. The reason for
this is because he is the president of America which has the most power in the world. He has a higher
status, meaning he has more to offer to America.
The verbal and non-verbal communication are interlinked in Obama's speeches. E.g. when Obama
says "Yes we can" he nods to support his written speech.
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The use of personal pronouns in Minnesota is a crucial part of his speech when he creates rapport. At
the start Obama refers to his relationships as the courtesy item, "thank you to my". He then shifts to
"since we", this inclusivity promotes a sense that Obama is speaking for the listener, as well as
himself. He surmises the listener's agreement that subtly tolerates no dispute. He shifts back to
"you" encouraging the audience they made the right choice.…read more