A STYLISTIC STUDY OF PARALLELISM IN THE PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHES OF PRESIDENTS BARRACK OBAMA AND GOODLUCK JONATHAN

A STYLISTIC STUDY OF PARALLELISM IN THE PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHES OF PRESIDENTS BARRACK OBAMA AND GOODLUCK JONATHAN

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

The role of language in every society is multifunctional; it serves various

purposes ranging from communication to command and persuasion. The language of

politics is a persuasive one and hence, politicians are expected to be conversant with

this characteristic of language. The elegant use of language to perform the task of

persuading and emphasizing goes a long way in making the language of politics a

beautiful language. One of the beautiful features of human language is the fact that it

is used for social interaction. No wonder Bloch and Trager (1942) define human

language as ―a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group

cooperates‖. In social lives of humans, language is used to establish and maintain

social relationships. It is by ―virtue of our membership of social groups that we are

able to interact with others and in doing so, to establish our individual identity and

personality‖ (Lyons 1977:51). The act of speaking is one way by which human beings

communicate feelings and emotions as well as ideas to other members of a social

group.

Speaking is the cement that holds friendships, families, communities, societies

and government together, (Philips et al, 1985 cited in Ahmed 2012). This

communication at a formal level involves public discourse such as sermons, debates

and political speeches and language is central to meaningful political discourse.

Schaffner (1996) opines that any political action is prepared, accompanied, controlled

and influenced by language.

In countries where true democracy is practiced, politicians can only come to

power after effective campaigning. Therefore, for elections to be won, these

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politicians have to be efficient in public speaking, hence, the relationship between

language and politics is a very significant one, therefore, for any political speech to be

successful there has to be a creative use of language by the politician. Language is

used by politicians to convince, persuade but in most cases it is used to deceive. This

study, however, is not concerned with the negative or deceptive use of language by

politicians, rather, it seeks to analyse the linguistic devices used in political speeches,

most especially that of foregrounding because that is where the concept of

‗parallelism‘ falls.

The study of political discourse is as old as politics itself. The emphasis the

Greeks placed on rhetoric is a case in point. Every aspect of their lives is concerned

with giving public discourse and this is often political in nature, ranging from the

speeches in the arena of any sporting events to senate debates. From Cicero (1871) to

Aristotle (1891) the concern was basically with particular methods of social and

political competence in achieving specific objectives. While Aristotle gave a more

formal twist to these overall aims, the general principle of articulating information on

policies and actions for the public good remains constant. This general approach

continues today. Public speaking or political speeches are part of the political state of

affairs. Thus, when a man/woman is elected president, he/she faces the daunting task

of public speaking as acceptance and presidential speeches are part of the numerous

speeches he/she is expected to deliver. Therefore, the focus of this study is to analyse

how the foregrounding device of parallelism works in the presidential speeches of

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria and President Barrack Obama of the

United State of America.

Stylistics is the branch of linguistics that studies the use of language in

specific contexts and attempts to account for the regularities that mark the language

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use by individuals or groups. Stylistics, which is often referred to as "literary

linguistics" is concerned with the linguistic choices that distinguished genres (Poetry,

Drama, Prose…etc) and with the ways in which individual writers exploit language,

Hancock (1986) cited in Ahmed (2012). Stylistics is not always concerned with

literary analysis alone. In recent times, it has expanded its scope by delving into the

analysis of other discourse types including political discourse, which is the main focus

of this study. The label ―Linguistic Stylistics‖ is given to those stylistic studies that

are not a literary exercise. Ayeomoni (2004:177) sees Linguistic Stylistics as ―an

analytical approach that helps readers to objectively study both literary pieces and non

literary materials‖. Linguistic stylistics is concerned with the analysis, interp


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