Investigation Into the Language and Rhetorical Devices Used in Political Speeches

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I am studying the rally speeches for the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat party’s. Nick Clegg has been the leader of the Liberal Democrat party for 5 years now and Ed Milliband has been the leader of the Labour party for 2 years. Both of these leaders have become unpopular in the public’s eyes: Nick Clegg due to him lying about the raising of tuition fees as well as the negative view from his party as they feel he has disassociated himself from the party objectives in order to conform to a conservative coalition. Ed Milliband is unpopular due to his lack of solid policy projections and no real estimates of what he would do as prime minister, he has left the nation in confusion and doubting his ability. Subsequently both leaders had a lot to gain, or lose, from the party conference. Therefore I chose to study these speeches in order to judge political rhetoric and grammatical features used. I will look at things such as repetition, pronouns, metaphors and rhetorical questions as well as comparing the study to other language and power theories. Alan Finlayson of East Anglia University, theorized on the language used in political speeches and the use of rhetoric is a strong constant throughout. His research has bought up strong pointers also found in my data so I aim to explore his research among other theorists in comparison with my findings.

Do the party leaders use rhetorical devices in similar ways and for similar purposes?

In order to investigate my hypothesis I have produced 3 aims, which investigate, in more detail significant areas of the speech transcripts: 1. Explore how the speeches employ rhetorical and grammatical technique to create dramatic effect in political speeches. 2. Compare the similarities and differences between the two political leaders. 3. Compare my data in relation to political speech theories on the use of rhetoric and grammatical frameworks.

Recorded from a “youtube” video the data is a secondary source. My first transcript is from liberal democrat leader Nick Clegg and it is taken from his rally speech which was held in Brighton in October 2012. My second transcript is from the leader of the labour party Ed Milliband and his rally speech in October 2012 also but held in Manchester. I decided to transcribe equal parts of hour long speeches made by both the leaders and chose the end, and about 7-8 minutes length from each. The initial audience, which the leaders had, was the members of their own party, however the speeches were televised so reached a much larger audience as well as then being recorded for “youtube”. This could subsequently have changed the way they spoke as although they were in front of a room of party members it seemed that the aim was at the general public in getting their parties ideas across.

Explore how language employs rhetorical and grammatical technique to create dramatic effect in political speeches.

Repetition features heavily within both transcripts. Ed Milliband repeated the verb phrase “I hate” 6 times during the end of his speech. The connotations of hate are not of a mild dislike of something but a strong and dramatic opinion. This phrase if repeated will really have an effect on the audience as they will be forced to question how bad these things must be to make this man so opposed. The phrase was linked throughout to the opposition’s political choices “ I hate the fact that there are 5500 fewer nurses than when David Cameron came to power”. This is a clear device used by Milliband in order to persuade the audience to take a dim view of the opposition. On the other hand Nick Clegg repeats the noun “liberalism” twice throughout his speech “the flickering flame of liberalism” and “and they refused to accept that liberalism, that most decent, enlightened and British of creeds, that did so much to shape our past, would not...
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