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Hogskolan Dalarna University

Discourse Analysis Essay




THE USE OF PRONOUNS, PARALLELISM
IN OBAMAS TWO POLITICAL SPEECHES








MA. LE CHAU HOAI NHAT
v08nhale@du.se


















Summer, 2008



TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 1
1.1 Aim ..................................................................................................................................................... 2
2. Theoretical Background ........................................................................................................... 2
3. Methodology and Data .............................................................................................................. 4
4. Data Analysis and Results ........................................................................................................ 4
4.1 Pronouns ............................................................................................................................................ 4
4.2 Parallelism ......................................................................................................................................... 6
5. Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. 9
References .................................................................................................................................... 11
Appendixes ................................................................................................................................... 12

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1. Introduction
On 4 November 2008, Barack Obama won the election and became the 44
th
President of
the United States of America. This event didnt only turn a new page in history of Democratic
Party but also mark an eloquent talent who is a 46 years president, Barack Obama.
The success of Obama more or less depends on his speeches in his electoral campaign.
Obama delivered his speeches not only to disseminate information, but also to lay out some of
his plans for the country, to affirm his national principles, to set an agenda to shape his national
policies of administration, and to unify his audience. In order to attract the audiences attention
and make them support his campaign, he manipulated specific linguistic devices in every his
speeches to draw on ideas, concepts that could reflect and reinforce the beliefs, values and
culture of American
That exploring rhetorical devices in political language which Obama used in his speeches
is necessary in order to emphasis on the importance of Obamas speeches that help him to be
chosen as Democratic Party presidential candidate and then win the USAs presidential election.
His speeches made a strong impression on the audience, and nearly two million American
supported vigorously his campaign. There were many speeches Obama gave during his president
electoral campaign, but the essay analyses two speeches which Obama presented in Springfield,
Illinois on February 10, 2007, and in St Paul, Minnesota on June 3, 2008. Obama succeeded in
using political language rhetoric in his speeches as a powerful tool to persuade listeners to take
part in his campaign and support his decision and plans. In these two speeches, Obama used
successfully two rhetorical devices that are pronouns and parallelism. With these two devices,
the political language in Obamas speeches achieves a high level of success that is Obama can
communicate his thoughts and his purposes. Moreover, thanks to two rhetorical devices, Obama
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created a intimacy between him and audience, showed sympathy and solidarity, and made
audience remember important and significant information.
1.1 Aim
What this essay is setting out to do is to investigate the use of personal pronouns and
parallelism in two Obamas political speeches (Appendix, p.14 ), and to examine how these
rhetorical devices are used effectively in persuasive discourse making Obamas speeches attract
audiences attention.
2. Theoretical Background
The study of rhetoric is very important in political speech making. Rhetoric teaches
politicians how to speak well; it teaches politicians how to present ideas in vigorous and
persuasive discourse, and to communicate their thoughts and impressions effectively.
According to Jones & Peccei (2004), language can be used to influence peoples political views
by exploring in detail the ways in which politicians can use language to their own advantage.
Moreover, Aristotles Rhetoric points out that we all employ rhetoric, the persuasive use of
language, generally in trying to demonstrate the rightness of what we want the other person to
accept. (Joseph, 2006:110)
The power of rhetoric is using persuasive discourse to convince an audience. Persuasion is
considered as the ways of using language to exploit feelings, to foreground or to obscure
responsibility and agency, to repeat equal ideas, or to draw attention to a particular part of the
message, as shown in Jones & Peccei (2004:51-52) and Inogo-Mora (2004:47).
Relying on the use of rhetorical devices, politicians make the impact of their ideas on the
addressee increase to their own advantage. One of the rhetorical devices that politicians usually
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use in their speeches is that using suitable personal pronouns. Cameron states that one is the
frequent use of names, especially first names, and another use of pronouns I and you. There is a
preference for informal styles and registers, which connote a higher degree of intimacy or
solidarity than more formal ones (2001:132).
Based on the Montgomerys public discourse analysis in his article (1999) about
distinguishing Blairs attribute and the Queens tribute to Princess Diana, Montgomery focused
on rhetorical devices that are pronouns and parallelism. Both the British Prime Minister Tony
Blair and The Queen uses parallelism device in their discourse in order to express the sincerity of
a tribute to Princess Diana. From the Montgomerys argument, Cameron concludes that The
pronouns that predominate in the speech are first person plural ones, we and our. This tends to
imply that the attitudes expressed by Blair are common to the nation as a whole (2001:136).
Jones & Peccei state that parallelism is a device which expresses several ideas in a series
of similar structures. This can serve to emphasise that the ideas are equal in importance and can
add a sense of symmetry and rhythm, which make the speech more memorable (2004:51). In
one speech, politicians always want the audience to focus on key features - salient points. And
the parallel patterns of discourse is seen as a best choice to draw attention to a particular part of
their message and make it stand out from the rest of the speech. (Jones & Peccei, 2004:51)
With a similar distinction, It could be argued that (1) using personal pronouns in a group of two
I and you connotes a higher degree of intimacy and solidarity it makes the gap between the
speaker and the listener narrower, (2) the choice of we is considered as a bridge connecting
I and you- making a sensation that the speaker and the listeners are the same side, and (3)
using parallelism, politicians emphasise their key views, persuade audience to sympathize with
their views, and make their speech more memorable.
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3. Methodology and Data
The data for analysis in the study is Illinois Sen. Barack Obamas political speeches in
recent American political discourse. The focus is on rhetorical devices that Illinois Sen. Barack
Obama used in (1) Obama Presidential Announcement on Saturday, February 10, 2007 with
topic: Our Past, Future & Vision for America, and (2) Obama victory speech in St Paul,
Minnesota on June 3, 2008. All examples used in this essay are from this source.
The reason for choosing this case is that it is such a real political situation in which
political language is used. In addition, this data helps to employ a mixed method approach which
involved listening the Sen. Obamas speech and observing the way Obama gave his speech.
4. Data Analysis and Results
4.1 Pronouns
In Obama speeches The pronouns I, You and We are used much more than other
pronouns such as she, he, or they. Comparing the use of pronouns I, You and We with the
use of the others (see Table 1- Appendix). Within the key pronouns, the first group of high
frequency (above 1%) includes I, You and We. Pronouns I and You occupies above 1%
in both two speeches while pronoun We occupies above 2%. Apparently, frequency of these
pronouns is higher in both two speeches, which reflects Obamas emphasis on these pronouns for
his specific purposes. Hence, it is understandable that Obama has to put more effort into
bettering relations with the audience to gain public support in the country. Looking at the
following analysis.
The use of pronouns I and You expresses sociable styles and connotes a higher degree
of intimacy and solidarity, as shown in Cameron (2001:132). The combination of I and You
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shows not only strong emotion, but also informal relationship between the speaker and the
listener.
(1) [] But let me tell you how I came to be here. As most of you know, I am not a
native of this great state. I moved to Illinois over two decades ago. I was a young man
then, just a year out of college; I knew no one in Chicago, was without money or family
connections. But a group of churches had offered me a job as a community organizer
for $13,000 a year. And I accepted the job, sight unseen, motivated then by a single,
simple, powerful idea - that I might play a small part in building a better America.
(Appendix, Sp2, p.18)
With the skilful use of pronouns and a sociable voice when he said let me tell you
how or As most of you know, I , Obama succeeded in expressing his feeling and
convinced the listener. Obama not only swayed the audience by establishing a connection
between himself and the audience but also narrowed the distance between himself and the
audience that made the audience feel that he was standing beside them. Moreover, it seems that
Obama was directly talking to them as friends. When he told the story about himself as he was
young and how he overcame difficulties, he talked with a friendly way depending on the suitable
use of pronouns I and You that made the audience feel to be shared.
It may be said that Obama used effectively pronouns I and You for telling the stories
about himself and his experience that improved the power of language in his speech. The degree
of intimacy and solidarity is higher when Obama used the pronoun we in the following
example.
(2) All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the
day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after
block to make your voice heard. You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or
anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment - a moment
that will define a generation - we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing.
We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all
those who dream of that future tonight, I say - let us begin the work together.
Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America. (Appendix, Sp1, p.14)
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The use of we takes an important role in increasing the intimacy between I and You.
This language use helps to create a feeling that Obama and the audience are in the same team,
and that they share the same plight. Obama employed the pronoun We to call for a shared sense
of recognition of Americans experience. Moreover, the use of we in example (3) below helps
to show the solidarity in his speech that is Obamas plans as everyones plans.
(3) But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq.
Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake.
Today we grieve for the families who have lost loved ones,[ ...] That's why I have a plan
that will bring our combat troops home by [....] Letting the Iraqis know that we will not
be there forever is [...] (Appendix,Sp2, p.21)
Obama said that he had a plan to bring combat troops home by March of 2008. This shows
his concern as a leader, and if he became the President of the United States, he would carry out
this plan. Moreover, he almost always used the pronoun we to share the responsibility of
carrying out important decisions of developing the nation to hearers. When he used the pronoun
we in his speech, he left the hearer a feeling that his plans as everyones plans. It is not only
himself but also all American has responsibility for carrying out the plans.
With the tactics of using pronouns I, You and We, Obama put himself in the
audiences position in order to express his highly valuable experience that made his speech more
informal and reliable. Furthermore, the audience also felt that they themselves and Obama have
the same feeling and experience, and they all worked together for a better America.
4.2 Parallelism
The art of persuasion is further enhanced through the incorporation of specific linguistic
devices. In Obamas speeches, the stylistic device of parallelism combined with repetition
became the carrier to emphasize main contents that Obama wanted the audience to notice.
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Parallelism is a device which expresses several ideas in a series of similar structures. This can
serve to emphasise that the ideas are equal in importance and can add a sense of symmetry and
rhythm, which make the speech more memorable (Jones & Peccei, 2004:51). One reason why
politicians use parallel patterns of discourse in their speeches is to draw attention to a particular
part of their message and make it stand out from the rest of the speech. (Jones & Peccei,
2004:51). The following explanations will examine the occurrence of parallelism at the word,
phrase, and clause level.
(4) [] And I accepted the job, sight unseen, motivated then by a single, simple,
powerful idea[] (Appendix, Sp2, p.18 )
Three words - single, simple and powerful - are adjectives modifying the noun idea and
standing before the noun. At the word level, parallel elements are necessarily the same part of
speech.
Parallel elements not only start with the same part of speech but also employ the repetition
of a specific phrase or the same pattern of construction. Repetition of structure and idea is a rule
in persuasion (Inogo-Mora, 2004:47). The salient feature in Obamas speeches is the repetition
of one word or one phrase in parallel structures at the beginning of sentences that attracts the
audiences intention on key views. The followings are wonderful examples of repetition.
(5)[...] what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all
those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her
fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fuelled
her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency. (Appendix, Sp1, p.13)
(6) Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age.
Let's set high standards for our schools .... Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and
give them better... Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific
research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural
towns ... (Appendix, Sp2, p.20)
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In Obamas speeches, he used many repetitions of a word, or a phrase, the word what in
(5) or the phrase Let us in (6) is a model one. The repetition of a specific phrase provides logic
and rhythm and makes it easy for the hearer to understand as well as to focus on the message.
With the repetition of Let us, Obama emphasized equal importance among reshaping the
economy, renewing education, investing in scientific research, and improving the connection
between inner cities and rural towns. Moreover, when Obama commented on John McCain, he
used the repetition of the phrase Maybe if(Appendix, Sp1, p.15-16) at the begining of each
paragraph making a good organization for his commentation, which left the audiences soul an
unbelief on having trust in McCain. Besides, Obama also emphasized on the union and the
strong actions as he used a series of sentences with the repetition of the phrase lets (Appendix,
Sp2, p.20) that urged the audience and dignifed the importance of the audiences action.
However, in (7) Obama used a more extensive parallelism (Jones & Peccei, 2004:51).
Parallel elements are not always set in lists of words that are the same part of speech. Sometimes,
these elements are difficult for the hearer to see. Note the use of patterned gerund phrases (v-ing)
after the preposition about in (7)
(7) It will take your time, your energy, and your advice -- to push us forward when
we're doing right, and to let us know when we're not. This campaign has to be about
reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and
realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for
change.( Appendix, Sp2, p.21)
. (about) V-ing + phrase/clause + of + noun/phrase
reclaiming the meaning citizenship
restoring our sense common purpose
realizing (that few obstacles (millions of voices
can withstand calling for change)
the power)
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The analysis shows that Obama used skillfully the device of parallelism in order to
improve a strong impression of the information on the audience.
Obama, in his two speeches, tried to attract Americans attention and stimulate Americans
action by making intimacy, solidarity through the frequent use of the personal pronouns I,
You, and creating a feeling of inclusion, togetherness as using pronoun We. In addition, the
use of parallelism not only is used densely in Obamas speeches but also becomes a key part of
his speeches. Especially, the combination use of repetition of a specific word or phrase in
parallel structures that helps to emphasize the importance of message, and that is a rule in
persuasion. (Inogo-Mora, 2004 and Jones & Peccei, 2004). The power of Obamas speeches,
therefore, is the power to persuade, and through speeches Obama seeks to persuade the nation
and society.
5. Conclusion
Although it is not possible to make strong generalizations from the analysis of data in this
small-scale exploratory study, the findings that emerge from the analysis of two political
speeches seem to be supported. These findings have helped to explore the aims of the study,
which are to examine how pronouns and parallelism are used in political speech; to see how
these rhetorical devices create persuasive discourse.
This essay explains generally the usage of personal pronouns and parallelism in two
Obamas speeches. Obama tactical manipulation of rhetoric helped him to achieve the final
purpose which he might convince the public to believe and support his ideas and take part in his
electoral campaign.
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From the findings, the essay might define rhetoric as the choice of linguistic and structural
aspects of discourse chosen to produce an effect on an audience. Rhetoric, therefore, is a matter
of choice with respect to the use of language as opposed to those uses that are determined by
lexical and grammatical structures. Obeying closely grammatical structures of rhetoric will
create unseen features of discourse that make the power of language. Examples in Obamas
speeches support the claims of Cameron, 2001 that the use of pronouns I and You connotes a
high degree of intimacy or solidarity. Furthermore, the use of we increases the intimacy
between I and You and helps to create a feeling that the listener and the speaker are in the
same team. The repetition of equal elements is to draw attention to a particular part of their
message and make it stand out from the rest of the speech, as showed in Jones & Peccei
(2004:51).
However, the essay indicates a number of directions for further research. What could be
revised about the collection of data is collecting all Obamas speeches in his electoral campaign.
In doing so, researchers could have more exactly explorations about the effect of using rhetorical
devices on a political speech. At the same time, researchers could have a general view of
rhetorical devices in a politicians use of persuasive discourse. In addition, the process of data
analysis in further research could involve the aspect of analysing the sound, and the gesture.
The combination of analysing the wordings- the use of structures, the sound- the use of
intonation, pitch, and the gesture the way politicians use their hands and their faces to
express their ideas and feelings is very important for exploring more completely the effect of
persuasive discourse.


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References
Cameron Deborah (2001). Working with Spoken Discourse. London, GBR: Sage Publication,
Ltd. P 123-141.
Crystal David. (1997). The English Language: Politics. 2
nd
Edition. The Cambridge. p 378.
Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama's speech in St Paul, Minnesota. 3/6/2008
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7434843.stm
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's Announcement Speech. Saturday, February 10, 2007; 3:28 PM.
The Associated Press
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/10/AR2007021000879.html .
nigo-Mora Isabel (2004). Journal of language and politic 3:1, 27-52. Universidad de Sevilla
Jones Jason and Stilwell Peccei Jean, 2004.What is language and what does it do? Language and
politics. Language society and power. pp 1-15, 36-53.
Joseph, John E. (2006). Language and Politics. Edinburgh, GBR: Edinburgh University Press, p
110. 8 April 2008.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/dalarna/Doc?id=10130477&ppg=110












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Appendixes
Table 1: Frequency of personal pronouns.
Key Pronouns Speech in Springfield, Illinois.
February 10, 2007
(Total words: 2771)
Speech in St Paul, Minnesota.
June 3, 2008
(Total words: 2805)
Total of
pronouns
Relative frequency
of pronouns (%)
Total of
pronouns
Relative frequency
of pronouns (%)
I (me, my) 43 1,55 35 1,24
You (your, yours) 29 1,04 34 1,21
We (us, our, ours,
ourselves)
138 4,98 78 2,78
They (their, theirs,
themselves)
11 0,39 5 0,17
She (her) 0 0 16 0,57
He (his, him) 5 0,18 8 0,28
It 6 0,21 5 0,17