Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2012. Vol.2, No.3, 97-104
Published Online September 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 97
Outstanding Rhetorical Devices and Textuality in Obama’s
Speech in Ghana, Africa
Concepción Hernández-Guerra
University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Spain
Received July 17th, 2012; re v is ed August 28th, 2012; accepted September 4th, 2012
Latest trends in political discursive analysis have shown the importance of the study done from the textual
and contextual perspective alike. An oral speech has the property of having been prepared in advance but
expressed with some improvisation so characteristics from written and oral texts must b e taken into con-
sideration. As a consequence, the structure of the discourse and the personal contribution of the author are
seemingly relevant. The oral speech analyzed here was expressed in Ghana, Africa by President Barack
Obama in 2009. Given the circumstances of Obama’s African origin and of visiting the country as the
President of the United States, the elements that reveal the personal attitude comprise an extra interest.
The aim of this paper is to analyze the speech from a discursive viewpoint in order to describe the textual
and intertextual functions.
Keywords: Political; Discourse; Textual; Intertextual; Analysis
Some of the most important points of attractiveness in the
recent history of linguistics as a science are the different per-
spectives from which text analysis can be carried out. That is
why discourse analysis is becoming a discipline that brings
together linguistics researchers from different areas. According
to the text to be analyzed, one will be more suitable than others.
But the common ground is that analysts start from the same
proposition: a text.
Text linguistics is always descriptive and, from this perspec-
tive, we analyze what words are used, how a message is said
and how discourse is built upon (Coulthard, 1994). Through
linguistics analysis we guess the possible textualization of the
writer’s message but there is another vision to interpret texts,
i.e., what is the purpose of such a text and how the combination
of the different utterances fulfills that purpose.
The oral speech genre covers this interpersonal metafunction
of language remarkably as the channel used for communication
is face-to-face and the perlocutionary effect must be i mmedi at e.
That is, the speaker wants a prompt response to his speech. To
do this, the illocutionary force must be strongly biased. This
idea may be seen in Table 1.
This subcategory of political discourse has had different de-
nominations: prepared speech, non-spontaneous oration, or spo-
ken monologue, and comprises three characteristics: it has been
delivered to a large audience, it has been prepared beforehand,
and the audience has to process that talk as being delivered.
I shall base my research on the text analysis offered by T.
Locke (2004), updated with P. Simpson’s contribution (2010),
as this frame bases the study not only on the linguistics ele-
ments but also the text structure and the intertextuality (Simp-
son, 2010: p. 45). From the diagram offered we have selected
the elements found in our text. They are expressed in Table 2.
With the vocabulary analysis we shall go over the condition
of the text: whether it is optimistic or pessimistic, whether
words with the same meaning are used and if they are frequent,
the role of metaphors; i.e., if they are used with a hopeful pur-
pose or describing the critical situation that a country like
Ghana is in. To put in a nutshell, concluding the implicit pur-
pose of the speech with a first estimation. Vocabulary will also
be seen in the chapter dedicated to cohesion.
Grammar analysis will be based on verbs, which voice they
express, and their modality or transitivity. On the other hand,
the use of the pronouns, i.e., whether the use of “we” implies
“you and I” or “Americans and I” and others; the different uses
of “you”, whether he makes reference to the citizens of Ghana
or, on the contrary, to the government. With this analysis we
shall guess in the message the compromise the speaker expects
from the hearers.
With the cohesive section in Table 2, we shall overview the
style in the speech but the use of parallelisms, argumentation
and connectives are also included. And, finally, text structure,
including the role of elements like presupposition and implica-
ture are included. With them, we shall come across the level of
knowledge Obama has of the country and their problems. We
shall also ascertain the interactional control of the text as a
Following this proposal, we are fulfilling the two-fold pur-
pose in this paper; that is, carrying out an analysis of the text
from a discursive point of view and concluding the personal
implication of the author.
Table 1.
Relationship between speaker and hearer in an oral speech.
Speaker Channel Hearer
Clearly stated
Illocutiona ry force Media
perlocutionary act
Table 2.
Locke’s and Simpson’s updated text analysis model.
Vocab. Grammar Cohesion Text structure
Formal/inf Modality Connectives Presupposition
Metaphors Transitivity Argumentation Implicature
Wording Types of verbs parallelism Intertextuality
Express. values Pronouns
The model will be applied to a speech stated by President
Barack Obama in the town of Accra in Ghana, Africa, in 2009,
the same year that he was elected President of the United States.
This speech covers the following parts: firstly, President Obama
opens the dissertation explaining the reason of his visit to
Ghana. The tone is positive as he is hopeful with the future of
the country. He remarks the mutual responsibility that both
countries have in the progress of Africans. This encouraging
presentation is reinforced with the personal reference to his
own family when he lived in Africa. The second part of the
speech covers the nuts and bolts as faced nowadays: the unful-
filled promises and the responsibility that the country itself has
to solve their own problems. It also condemns corruption but
gives hope to youngsters. After that, he expresses the four
problems he will deal with in the speech: democracy, opportu-
nity, health and the resolution of conflicts. In all of them, he
faces the current problems but exemplified in other African
countries. To the second and third predicaments he offers eco-
nomic solutions and in the fourth, a promise. He ends with a
hopeful and encouraging message and a Martin Luther King
quotation when he visited t hi s c ountry.
Politics as discourse is a constantly redefined area. David
Bell expressed that “we are all political beings in our everyday
life” (Bell, 1975: p. 10) and adds that if politics is communica-
tion, we must study who talks to whom and what they say
(1975: p. 93). Schäffner (1997) also admitted that political lan-
guage, political discourse and political text themselves are
vague terms (1997: p. 1) and that political speeches are not a
homogeneous genre. Instead, there is a range of subtypes de-
termined by the particular communicative situation. They have
in common that politicians try to get some aims in their devel-
opment and our aim is to explore the ways of language, how
they simplify and assist to create this function (Lakoff, 1990: p.
4). I shall explain within the next lines every area of study in
this paper:
Vocabu lary
We start this analysis from the micro-level and ask what spe-
cific structures (e.g. word choice) serve to fulfill which strate-
gies (Schäffner, 1975). Different models have been followed
for the study of the nouns. Halliday and Hasan (1985) divide
them into reiteration (that includes the same word, synonyms,
superordinates and general words) and collocation (opposite
meaning and typically associated) but it was reclassified in
1994 into repetition, synonymy and collocation. Källgren (see
Heydrich, 1989: p. 37) offered the next division: repetition,
synonymy, hyponymy, comparison and inference.
On the other hand, the use of metaphors in texts and in cur-
rent life has been a source of interesting literature during the
last decades (see, for instance, Van Remortel, 1986; Lakoff &
Johnson, 1980; Goos, 1995; Cameron, 1999; Leezenberg, 2001;
Simon-Vand, 2001; Ritchie, 2006; Vega Moreno, 2007; Parrill,
2010). Metaphor used in the discourse genre of political rheto-
ric has been talked about since Aristotle (Cameron, 1999: p. 9)
and, recently, it is accepted the link between metaphor and
thought as this is structured metaphorically and what flows is
the surface of those complex mechanisms that form the thought.
Saying this, it seems that we have forgotten in a way the meta-
phor as a matter of language. So, as Cameron states (1999: p.
107) “a metaphor must include at least one lexical item (the
Vehicle term) referring to an idea, entity, action, etc. (the
Topic), and that the Vehicle term belongs to a very different, or
incongruous, domain from the Topic.”
Lastly, by wording I mean the various ways (too many
“word” words listed) a meaning can be worded (Locke, 2004;
Fairclough, 1992). The use of different words or expressions to
refer to the same concept reflects the importance and intensity
the speaker wants to denote in order to reinforce the idea.
The chapter of pronouns leads us to the concept of “footing”,
widely discussed by Goffman (1981) and Levinson (1988), who
used it to establish a framework for the analysis of different and
complicated roles speakers and hearers have within situations
of verbal communication (Schäffner, 1997: 9). Ensink (in
Schäffner, 1997: 24) supports the analysis of footing as relevant
in political communication since.
The discourse analytic phenomena related to footing put a
sharp focus on what is represented in political communi-
cation, both as it relates to the speaker and to the audience.
Part of political communication takes place on the explicit
level of the message. An important part occurs on the
level of what the speaker’s footing presupposes as to rep-
As Levinson points out, the study of footing phenomena is
(from a linguistic viewpoint) relevant because these phenomena
are at the heart of the concept of deixis and shifters. Shifters
provide cues about the interactional significance of an utterance
(Wortham, 1996: p. 331) and have been a matter of study since
Jakobson (1971) and Jespersen (1965) as deictics, in the case of
personal pronouns.
A lot of literature has been written about cohesion and cohe-
siveness, taking different perspectives into consideration. Hal-
liday and Hasan (1976) have two terms for types of lexical
cohesion, reiteration and collocation. Others prefer to use repe-
tition instead of reiteration, being this one the repetition of a
lexical item, either identically or in a modified form whereas
the collocation makes reference to the “keep each other com-
pany” (Tankskanen: 2006: p. 12). She (2006: p. 7) offers the
following definition: “Cohesion refers to the grammatical and
lexical elements on the surface of a text which can form con-
nections between parts of the text. Coherence, on the other hand,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
resides not in the text, but is rather the outcome of a dialogue
between the text and its listener or reader.”
It has been widely discussed whether cohesion markers cre-
ate cohesion (de Beaugrande & Dressler, 1981: p. 3; Brown &
Yule, 1983: p. 195; Ellis, 1992: p. 148; Enkvist, 1978; Hellman,
1995; Lundquist, 1985; Sanford & Moxey, 1995) summarizing
in that “they are signals to the reader to look for a more or less
well-defined relation between two discourse segments” (Rick-
heit, 1995: p. 193) but for the purpose of this paper they will
help to analyze the level of textuality.
I shall try to develop a model capable of apprehending all
cohesively meaningful relations in this text. There have been
several attempts in this area (Halliday & Hasan, 1976; Heydrich,
1989; Kehler, 2002; Tanskanen, 2006). Traditionally, coher-
ence can be analyzed from a grammatical or lexical perspective.
Grammatical analysis is easier to develop as the frame is clearly
established, whereas lexical analysis has had many approaches.
We shall follow Tanskanen’s proposal as it is comprehensive
and fits better with the characteristics of the text. The analysis
of the categories of lexical cohesion is shown in Section 1 in
Table 3 and makes reference to words repeated identically or
with a slight change in number or tense. Complex repetition
words 2) are words with different grammatical functions or
words that share a lexical morpheme; substitution 3) makes
reference to pronouns, and items like one, do and so. Some re-
searchers include ellipsis in this category but will be left out-
side the present analysis; equivalence 4) alludes to synonymy,
and generalization 5) refers to a superordinate or hyponymic
relation; specification 6) is the opposite of generalization, that
is meronymy: the relation between an item and a more specific
item; co-specification 7) defines the relation between two items
which have a common general item; and contrast 8) or anto-
nymy refers to the relation between an item and another item
which has an opposite meaning.
Collocation relations have three sub-categories called or-
dered set 9) the first section in Table 3. It makes reference to
the members of ordered sets of lexical items (colours, days of
the week, and so on). Activity-related collocation 10) is the way
in which “actions, people, places, things and qualities, config-
ure as activities” (Martin, 1992). Finally, elaborative colloca-
tion 11) is the case in which items can somehow elaborate or
expand on the same topic. In this chapter, too, we shall include
argumentation, which represents the reasons to support an idea,
and parallelism.
Table 3.
Tanskanens’ categories of lexical cohesion.
1) Simple repetition 9) Ordered set
2) Complex repetition 10) Activity-related col lo cation
3) Substitution 11) Elaborative collocation
4) Equivalenc e
5) Generalization
6) Specification
7) Co-specification
8) Contrast
Text Structur e
This chapter deals with large scale organizational properties,
i.e., the interactional control of the content. This is important,
although the speaker has the control over the message. As said
above, political speeches are in the middle way between oral
and written texts. We shall take into consideration Collins’
(2010: p. 203) characteristics of political discourse in written
and spoken texts.
The relation between textual units can, in many cases, be
viewed as a relation between a nucleus and one or more satel-
lite(s) (Korzen & Heslund, 1998: p. 10). The nucleus is the axis,
the textually central part and the satellites are the circumstantial
expansions such as explanations and causes. This relationship
can be hierarchical (with a principal nucleus and some ancillary
satellites), or coordinated (in which no part is seen as ancillary
to others).
Another resource is the poetic features that contribute to co-
hesion. Poetical devices, i.e. alliteration, repetition and rhyme
are used to draw attention to linked meanings, and make the
associations easier to remember (Collins, 2010: p. 170). We
shall also include intertextuality based on parallelism and ex-
ternal references.
When we cope with a text we have some expectations about
it. Reading a letter is not the same as reading an advertisement.
All of us own previous information about what formal charac-
teristics the text will have. This is what has been called the
frame of discourse. Thanks to this frame, we can predict the use
of specific features related to the category of text. “They allow
us to make predictions and generalizations. […] Within the
frame, things are unmarked: normal, predictable, orderly, neu-
tral and simple.” (Lakoff, 2000: pp. 47-48).
The text we present here is a speech expressed to a hetero-
geneous audience with political bias. In general terms, we ex-
pect a discourse with a clear message expressed with examples,
some rhetoric and remarkable sentences. It is not surprising that
informal language abounds over formal vocabulary. The word
simple, for instance, is used three times to accompany nouns
like reason, truth and promise. The informality is also seen
when he explains African history through his own family’s eyes.
The evolution suffered from his grandfather’s way of living to
his father’s. To put in a nutshell, Obama defines colonialism
from his personal experience.
The use of adjectives throughout the text is also significant.
These terms are positive and encouraging. Words like consid-
erable, peaceful, improved, emerging, impressive, promising,
strong, sustainable, countless, bette r , broader, grea t , multiple,
wealthy, enormous or innovative are some of the examples
when describing Africa’s perspectives. On the contrary, when
talking about the drawbacks of the continent, the lack of adjec-
tives is the rule, with the exception of brutal, badly and tragic.
After several readings of the text, I have divided the vocabu-
lary into five big groups: positive, negative, politics, neutral and
words of countries or cities. The text is composed of around
3000 words and the vocabulary we have extracted represents
about 900 words.
Positive words have a confident and constructive intention.
They represent the third part of all of them. Considering the
most repeated words we have, partners with their derivatives
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 99
(partnership…) that is said nine times, future, that is also re-
peated nine times, progress and opportunity. Positive words
have a remarkable presence over the rest of the groups and can
be grouped following the pattern in Table 4.
Ghana is described as an example of good governance and of
democratic parliament and doesn’t hesitate in praising the coun-
try in every topic. The adjectives, as said before, are mostly
used with positive nouns.
Negative words sum up half of what are the positive ones
and can be grouped into global or general problems, problems
in Africa and problems brought out of Africa. The most re-
peated words are disease and conflict.
In Table 5, critical words towards corrupted African coun-
tries are severe and plentiful, but Obama also states that this is
not the case of Ghana. He enumerates the unacceptable things
in a democratic country who wants to establish some kind of
relationship with America.
Added to this, words referring to politics are not many and
make reference to the different ways to name the government
(parliament, administration, institutions). Neutral words are
defined like that because they do not have any implication.
They are less represented in number than the positive but are
more numerous than the negative. The most common are peo-
ple (28 times) and children (5 times).
It is also remarkable the large number of African countries he
names throughout his exposition. There are more than twenty
countries or towns of Africa mentioned. The word Africa is said
37 times, Ghana and its derivatives 17 and the country of
America, 10 times.
Metaphors are worth being mentioned in a separate para-
graph for their frequency and implicit meaning. Concepts like
Africa, partnership, boundaries, or expressions like birth of a
nation or firmer footing are abstract concepts prone to be used
in a metaphorical way. Reddy (Ritchie, 2006: p. 6) further ar-
gued that “the specific metaphors we use shape the way we
think about and behave toward these entities.” For political
discourse this is a good resource because it provides, on one
hand, a way of softening the delicate matters and, on the other,
some poetry for the hopeful ones.
Thus, around forty examples have been extracted that can be
arranged into three blocks. The first block consists of promising
and hopeful metaphors. In this group, we find lots of images
related to the links and ties between Africa, America, and the
rest of the world. We could also include other literary images as
in the expressions unlock Africas potential, people lifted out of
poverty, freedom is your inheritance or Africas boundless na-
tural gifts. Moreover, expressions composed with birth, give
birth, and birth of a nation are plentiful.
The second group consists of warlike words. In this way, we
find expressions like bred conflict, fight neglected tropical dis-
ease, Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent in war,
these conflicts are a millstone around Africas neck. These are
not so diverse but quite strong in meaning. There is a sentence
that is worth mentioning apart: I have the blood of Africa within
me. The use of the word blood may have two meanings: firstly,
denoting that he has African blood as his father was African but,
secondly, blood as a term related to wounds, suffering and death.
The third group is formed by the terms related to jury. He
often states that what he is saying is not his opinion but the
truth: History offers a cl ear verdic t, It is the death sentence of a
society to force children to kill in wars, We witness the triumph
of justice. They are les s common.
Table 4.
Sample of positive words in the text.
Words referring to
Ghana or Africa’
Words referring to
Ghana’s future America’s compromise
Democracy, strength,
human right s, energy,
significant, promis-
ing, important, talent,
energy, good gov-
Promise, triumphs,
improved g overnance,
impressive rates of
Support, aid, more
resources, funds, food
security initiative, new
methods and
technologies for farm-
ers, substantial i ncrease
Table 5.
Sample of negative words in the text.
General problems Problems in A frica Problems b rought ou
of Africa
Warming planet, crisis,
mosquito bite, malaria,
global security
challenge, dr ama, poor
and rural areas,
greenhouse gas,
Combatants, tribalism,
corruption, d rug
traffickers, brutality,
bribery, ty ranny,
autocracy, bribe, rape,
outrage, s courge,
Patronage, colonial-
ism, tragic past,
unnatural borders,
unfair terms of trade,
Within the wording (vocabulary in Table 2), we find the in-
sistence of the President in the connection between both conti-
nents and the idea of partnership, working together. In this way,
we can read expressions like ties, boundaries, connections, par-
tners with America, mutual responsibility (twice), and founda-
tion of our partnership.
With reference to the expressive values, the encouraging ut-
terances throughout the speech are sensible. Sentences like your
prosperity is Americas, your health and security is the worlds,
or our strength is the democracy reinforces the idea of a coun-
try that must not feel alone, that things are being done right.
The problems that Africa faces are reflected in other country’s
Indexical shifters like I and we are always interesting to ana-
lyze as they can be ambiguous and ingenious. In the text, the
personal pronoun “I” appears 24 times to denote a personal
interest in the country (I see Africa, I see this knowing full well,
I believe, I have no doubt) but, also, to express personal impli-
cation to problems (I have pledged, I have directed, I can
promise). The pronoun “we”, on the other hand, appears 47
times with different implications: firstly, to denote “you and I”.
This happens at the beginning of the text and in the last para-
graph. The most frequent meaning in use is “you and the
world”. With the verb “see” it has been used 8 times and in a
way denotes the idea that all of us are equals. Other examples
are: We all have many identities, we are all Gods children to
proclaim tolerance. Another use of the first person plural pro-
noun is to describe American Administration. No less than 12
times Obama has expressed this with examples like: We spend,
we have a responsibility, we will carry forward, we will invest
or we will fight. It is also used to denote American Administra-
tion and Ghanaian in examples like we are partners (used
twice), what we will do, we must support or we must stop. An-
other meaning is “America and the West” or developed coun-
tries. I have found three examples in expressions like: We use
energy, we can also work with Africans and we know that more
progress can be made. Lastly, there is one more interesting
interpretation, that of “African-Americans”: at the end of the
speech and in two occasions he explains the achievements of
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
the community with expressions like we have done and we have
drawn as examples of how this group has overcome the diffi-
The examples of the second personal pronoun (“you”) as ob-
ject is not employed so often as the previous case (only 15
times) and grouped in the first and last paragraphs of the text.
In the first lines we read I am speaking to you, it will be you, I
want to speak with you today. Notice in this example, how the
speaker does not use the expression “speak to you” but “speak
with you” even though the characteristics of the venue do not
permit this interaction. In the final part of the speech is where a
big number of examples of the pronoun “you” can be found as
subject. Let’s take the examples you have the power, you can
serve, you can conquer, you can do that, yes, you can and a
final long sentence: the decisions that you make, the things that
you do, and the hope that you hold. In this final assertion, he
combines the use of the pronoun to address the audience di-
rectly, with the use of both repetition and pa ra llelism.
Modality (grammar in Table 2) is expressed in this speech
through the use of modal verbs in this order of frequency: will,
can, must and fewer times, would and should, being the sum of
will and can three times more often than must. The first one,
with its future meaning, denotes the importance that Obama
gives to the future of the nation. Expressions like we will pur-
sue, we will fight, we will invest or will talk are examples of
conciliatory tone. The modal can is used to reinforce the hope-
ful message. So, in the last part of the speech, he exhorts the
audience to have courage for the future: You can conquer dis-
ease, end conflicts and make change from the bottom up. You
can do that. Yes you can.
The percentage of use of the modal must with exhortative
meaning, in contrast with the other ones, reflects the compro-
mise he wants to establish with the country to fulfill the aims. It
is an important part, but not the most frequent. We can see ex-
pressions like must start, must first recognize, must open, must
include or must be won.
Other results are interesting. For instance, the active voice is
used five times more often than the passive voice and the third
person singular of the verb “to be” outnumber modal verbs in
the present tense. Regarding the active voice, the use of the
simple present, much more often than the present perfect, pre-
sent continuous and simple past taken altogether is significant.
Finally, there are two examples of imperative, that are used
twice every one: let me be clear and make no mistake.
When passive voice is used, the aim is to denote criticism
towards the government and citizens and to express the com-
promise that the visited country must sign in order to work
together. So, we can find expressions like has yet to be fulfilled,
is too often overlooked, can only be met by Africans, must also
be broken, is the most threatened, can only be done.
The third group in our analysis model is cohesion and co-
herence. This is not seen so often in the repetition of simple and
complex repetition, as we have seen, but in the examples of
substitution of the pronouns and the number of generalizations.
He names four big areas in his speech and explains with exam-
ples what he means by them. When he means “corruption”, for
instance, he exemplifies with tribalism and patronage. When
talking about “opportunities”, he names inversion, promotion,
development and creation. Characteristics of “common human-
ity” are love to our communities, our faith and our family and
when he talks about “power”, he clarifies that is energy, solar
power, wind, geothermal energy and bio-fuels. In other words,
big topics are exemplified in Africa. To sum up, the speech is
political in the sense that it deals with real economic problems
that face Ghana and Africa but with a colloquial mood as they
are explained with everyday examples. When he talks about na-
tural gifts, Obama names several places in Africa where those
resources can be found. As we see, the common rule followed
by Obama is to switch from the general to the particular.
The contrast, on the other hand, is expressed in the problems
or vices that really exist in Africa and in how people should
change. We find words in the positive side that contradict the
words in the negative side of the exposition. So, we can read in
the same text terms like liberation and patronage; democracy
and autocracy, tyranny; progress and poverty; corruption and
transparency; peace and war, conflict; strength and brutality.
Taking into consideration Collins’ (2010: p. 203) character-
istics of the political discourse in written and spoken texts, we
shall conclude that the paper we deal with has the following
features in every category:
There are two other characteristics, that are, “Semi-natural vs.
semi-learnt” and “Clause/phrase complexity” that are not in-
cluded as can be considered belonging to both groups. In Table
6 we can see that written features are remarkable.
Focusing on the fourth group in Table 2, intertextuality is
denoted in the knowledge President Obama has of the country
and of the continent. In every one of the problems he faces, he
exemplifies with different African countries. The bad aspects are
reserved to other countries from Ghana. Another example of in-
tertextuality is the reference he makes to Martin Luther King
when he was in Ghana some decades ago. This is a recurrent
tool for the “accreditation” of the text. “A speaker thus intimates
his wish to pay honor to the previous text, so that the audience
can follow the speaker in this respect too and can accept the
orator’s actual text by comparing it with the accredited pre-text”.
(Sauer, in Schäffner: p. 39) He does it after naming the great
effort African-Americans have done in his country, too.
Table 6.
Collins’ characteristics of political discourse applied to t h e t e x t.
Both individuals and languages
develop speech before writingSpecific equipment necessary
Coordination Lexical fea t ures: precise reference
Organized in time Transmitted over considerable space and
Transient (although recorded)Monologic
Context-bound Static, closed
Presence o f in tonation a n d
body-language Delayed feedback
Less audience-involving Best suited for development of complex
ideas, allows planning, re vision
Prestigious, highly valued
Syntactic features—clear sentence
Complete major sentences
Open-class words
Lexically dense
More formal, precise lexis
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 101
The association between two elements is also noticeable. The
comparison between powerful nations and Ghana: The 21st
century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or
Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra as well
in order to reinforce the idea that their progress is in parallel
with the world’s in an attempt to make them feel part of the
developed world.
The field is clearly defined but the mode is something that is
worth a particular consideration. Typically, speech is associated
with the presence of an addressee and, according to Collins
(2010: p. 97), also with the following corollaries. We’ll see
which ones fit our text:
As we can see in Table 7, the characteristic factors in the
speech mode do not fit completely. Collins provides a solution
talking about the “mixed modes” (2010: p. 200):
Lectures are a good example of a mixed mode; they must
provide precise information, but will not do so effectively
without a degree of interpersonal contact: eye contact,
spontaneous comment… the grammar of lectures will of-
ten reflect features of more informal tenor and of spoken
mode, as for instance in its selection of coordination over
Obama has wanted to show a deep knowledge of Ghana and
of Africa. He names problems and achievements from different
areas of different countries, individual people and, quite origin-
nal, his own family. He attempts to make a parallelism between
the positive evolution of three generations in his family and
In the vocabulary, some aspects must be taken into consid-
eration. I have divided the words into five categories, according
to their frequency: positive, negative, related to politics, neutral
and with reference to countries. This distinction has been done
not taking the words in isolation but within a context. So, for
instance, civil society is neutral in itself but emerging civil soci-
ety in the context used by Obama is positive. So the division
into these categories has been done according to the intention of
the author. In other examples we have checked that he uses an
expression to be categorized as negative but has been used to
contrast with a hopeful meaning. For instance, in the sentence
Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the
world, but it is the most threatened by climate change, the ex-
pressions greenhouse gas and climate change are negative,
although in the first case this is not related to Africa. Anyhow,
we consider them negative for the implication it owns. On the
contrary, the expression fight against HIV/AIDS has an intrinsic
positive meaning but the word fight is traditionally considered
negative. Not in this case, as has been used purposely with the
meaning of a task developed with all the strength.
Obama has shown a deep knowledge of Africa, his countries
and his problems and is also firm with corrupted administra-
tions. Balance is put into Ghana, kind side of the coin, while
other countries are openly criticized. As we saw in previous
chapter, positive words double negatives because within posi-
tive words we find the praising to Ghana and the expectations
that countries like this can have in future. Remember that half
of the discourse deals with the four topics that represent the
global problems in Africa.
The vocabulary words are not repeated, except in the few
cases that we have named above. The use of shifters in the text
Table 7.
Corollaries in a speech act applied to the text.
Immediate feedback NO
Backchannelling ?
Lack of preparation time NO
Strategies of speaker/ addressee in-
teraction YES (It is not a dia logue but t he
public interacts)
Informality NO
Rhetorical structure (extraposition) YES
Functions of speech vs. writing
Phatic func tion
Poetic resources
is also interesting. Patron and patronage are shifters used to
describe some of the reasons why Africa has not evolved in a
natural way. They do not describe a specific nation, except
when talking about his grandfather that used the non-shifter
British. On the other hand, there are not so many examples of
equivalence. Just to cite one, we find Africa and developing
world or the West. Added to this, when facing the problems of
Africa, he also offers the solution with nouns like tragedies and
triumphs, hope against cynicism and despair, patron versus
partner, victors and opposition, support and violate or costs and
But some examples have been found within the activity-re-
lated group of cohesive words. Most of the professions are
quite general (farmers, producers, journalists) but they person-
ify every measure: In the 21st century, capable, reliable and
transparent institutions are the key to success—strong parlia-
ments and honest police forces; independent judges and jour-
nalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society.
It is remarkable the use of the indexical shifter “we” denoting
“you and I” at the beginning and end of the text creates an at-
mosphere of confidence between the audience and the speaker.
In a way, the orator feels closeness to the country and his prob-
lems. Also remarkable are the examples of parallelism. Firstly,
the idea that their future is in their hands: As I said early, Af-
ricas future is up to Africans. Secondly, using the negation: No
country is going to create… No business wants to invest… No
person wants to live… Thirdly, he reverses the problem of cor-
ruption empathasizing with Ghana and repeating the structure
“we see”: We see that in leaders who accept… We see that
spirit in courageous… We see it in police… We see it in the
young people… And the next paragraph in simple past: We saw
it in Kenya… we saw it in South Africa… We saw it in Zim-
babwe. Next, the repetition of the pronoun “we” is used to cre-
ate the atmosphere of unity. Lastly, final lines are also exam-
ples of parallelism when he says: it must come from the deci-
sions that you make, the things that you do, and the hope that
you hold in your heart.
Intertextuality and its relatives are closely related to other
pragmatic constructs, in particular, frames and presuppositions.
So, the reference that Obama makes to his grandfather (first
generation) and his father (second generation) leads Ghanaians
to think of their own progress. The third generation (Obama) is
the President of the United States of America. This message is
encouraging and stimulating: personal effort has visible results.
Secondly, the reference to local and individual people who
fought for their country’s freedom, maybe unknown to the rest
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
of the world, being the speaker’s intention twofold: show a
good knowledge of the recent story of the country and address
specifically to them. This message is also of closeness and
Thirdly, the reference to Martin Luther King. He is a well-
known character that represents justice and freedom for every-
body, particularly for black people. He is an icon around the
world. Obama makes reference to King’s visit to Ghana some
years before when the first step ahead in progress and freedom
was accomplished. In this way, Obama is seen as the second
revealing black person who goes to Ghana to give support to
their efforts. This message is hopeful.
Parallelism and repetition as elements of text structure are
used in several occasions throughout this speech in order to
reinforce positive messages. But there is a sentence which he
repeats twice purposely: Africas future is up to Africans. He
repeats that at the beginning and close to the ending of the
speech. The idea of the mutual responsibility is also constant.
But there are other structures used to create a poetical feeling,
for instance: “Your prosperity can expand America’s. Your
health and security… And the strength of your democracy can
help…” All the achievements are reinforced through repetition,
as is the case of “We see that in leaders… we see that spirit…
we see it in police… we see it in the young people… and later
We saw it in Kenya… we saw it in South Africa… we saw it in
Zimbabwe…” Corruption is condemned through negation: “No
country is going to create… No business wants to invest… No
person wants to live…” Another interesting example is the
repetition of “you can” reminding the famous slogan in his suc-
cessful presidential campaign: “You can serve in your commu-
nities… You can conquer disease… You can do that. Yes, you
Taking the text as a whole, the structure is quite simple: the
relationship between the nucleus and its ancillary satellites is
coordinated. In all the topics he deals with, there is a corre-
spondence between America or himself and Africa or Ghana.
This correspondence requires some compromise. The message
is that whether there is a response, we shall collaborate. We
could see this in Table 8.
As we can see in Table 8, the compromise is established not
just with Ghana, but with the rest of the countries, too. In fact,
the funds for the public health support are not offered to Ghana,
but Africa. Ghana is present during the whole speech but there
is an addressee farther than this, Africa.
Following carrot and stick’s theory and focusing on Ghana
but extended to the rest of the countries, Obama gives three
messages: I open my hands to help you, I expect from you a
compromise, and provided that the compromise is fulfilled,
these boundaries will be reinforced.
After a comprehensive analysis of the text we recognize that
Obama has created a thin network between the messages he
wants to transmit with a very conciliatory atmosphere. The af-
fective bundle of boundaries, links, common knowledge of the
country and understanding is more straightforward than the
stylistic devices he exploits.
This interconnection is reflected, firstly, in the ties so much
repeated in the first paragraphs and translated into compromise
in next. No doubt, his roots are used not so much as a tool to
show his understanding and knowledge of the country but as a
Table 8.
Structure of the speech.
Obama’s past Current proble ms Africa’s past/present
responsibility Democratic governments Africa’s responsibility
Help support
($3.5b.) Opportunity = prosperity Ghana
Support ($6 3b. ) Public health Africa’ resources (and
Promise of supportConflict s Africa’s eff orts (and
Ghana’s honesty
means to show up his determination to fulfill the settled com-
Secondly, the high frequency of references to Africa opens
up the message to the continent. The use of informal language
and simple structures creates a colloquial environment where
the first person pronoun singular is remarkable. The use of the
simple present also reflects the degree of improvisation in the
text. The orator feels self-confident enough to speak to an au-
dience whose past and present he knows well. It is this knowl-
edge that allows him to have these literary conventions through-
out the text.
On the other hand, criticisms are always in opposition to
praises. The switching towards the drawbacks always comes
back to the appreciation of the achievements. Vocabulary is
strong in these interventions and the use of adjectives is per-
manent in order to increase the tension. Criticisms are ex-
pressed as the necessary conditions to get this mutual help and
can be summarized in the corruption of the institutions.
The important use of the modal “will” also reflects the im-
portance given to the future and here is where this net is wider,
as he involves all the continents in the globe with the personal
pronoun “we” and with the use of hopeful metaphors.
The wide knowledge he shows of the continent is a signal of
fellowship where problems are always expressed with solutions.
The tone of the message is confident and constructive. Struc-
tures are simple to favor improvisation and further understand-
ing. On the other hand, his interlinks of proper nouns and rele-
vant people in the history of Africa diminish the original politi-
cal bias that the text was designed for. At the same time, it cre-
ates intimacy with the audience .
To end with, he focuses the speech more on the future than
the past and shows a determination to collaborate and work for
Africa, albeit with very strict rules to be accomplished by hon-
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