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A Study of Interpersonal Function of Obama’s Political Speeches: a Systemic-function Approach

Author: LvWenJing
Tutor: CaoJin
School: Northwest Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Obama’s speeches Systemic Functional Grammar interpersonal function
CLC: H315
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2010
Downloads: 173
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In our daily life, language is used to carry out not only a communicative function of describing the world but establish and maintain some certain appropriate relations between us. We call such function as Interpersonal Function in Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics.As the first African-American President in the United States of America, Barack Obama’s speeches will be a focus in many scholars’eyes through the world. Firstly, he tries to present himself as an authority, secondly, he has to establish and maintain an ideal relationship with the audience, and thirdly, he intends to enforce strong power on the audience. Due to the complexity of his speeches, then Obama’s four political speeches are adopted as corpus with the topic of 2008 US Elections. The analysis is carried out through both quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to find out: (1) What language choices are employed by Obama to achieve his various Interpersonal Functions; (2) The realization of different interpersonal resources. Data for this research comes from Obama’s political speeches during the time of his election.The foci of this thesis are mood system, modality system, personal pronouns and evaluation. Besides that, the special career—Internet, will be discussed in this thesis. This thesis shows that: (1) The Internet plays a very important role in Obama’s success; (2) In the mood system, declaratives are dominant in Obama’s speeches, and in this way, he conveys much information, then shows his attitudes; (3) In terms of modality, Obama often uses high and median value modalities to show his authority and attitude so as to avoid being too arrogant and radical; (5) There are also some words with different evaluative coloring in Obama’s speeches. By using these words, he expresses different kinds of feelings.It is found that the tactful employment of appropriate language choices may help a speaker to deliver a successful speech and reach his multiple aims. What’s more, the application of Halliday’s theory in this thesis will also be another proof of the practicability and scientificity of Systemic Function Grammar in the field of discourse analysis.

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