【小論文 】Obama演說的類型分析(Genre analysis)

這一篇Assignment主要是討論並且分析Obama的歷年演說,是我寫過的小論文中,比較有趣的,Obama的演說主要有以下幾個特點值得學習:

1、善用數字,無論描述危機或牛肉,數字感覺更有說服力。

2、善用小故事,訴說身邊平凡人的故事,並且透過文字描述栩栩如生,讓觀眾彷彿看見這個故事中的主角。

3、用字簡潔,善用對仗、頭韻詞,好聽好記,文字充滿想像力,讓人感同身受,善用肢體語言body language,適切的頓點,以及讓人聽的舒服的語調語速。

雖然他其實非常依賴提詞器(一種可以讓他看著念講稿的透明機器),但透過事先妥善寫好的優雅文稿,加上他的詮釋,不能否認他是很成功的演員,將他政治人物的角色演得相當成功。有興趣的人也可以在這網站看到他的歷年演說,或上Cheers網站看到關於他的評論。

Genre Analysis of Obama’s Public Speaking

Introduction

Recent years have seen increased attention being given to the notion of genre in discussion of academic writing and English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Numerous studies (V. K. Bhatia, 1993; Flowerdew, 2002; Paltridge, 2001) stress that genre analysis is beneficial for language acquisition. The purpose of this study is to examine public speaking addressed by the present American president Barack Obama and discuss the implications that could be applied to practical level. To do this, several public speaking delivered from 2004 to 2009 are selected and discussed. The particular genre “public speaking” has its own characteristics while the president Obama also has his distinct personality. Thus, this study examines the interaction between texts, roles, and contexts as a way of understanding the characteristics of the particular genre and the role it plays in its particular setting. To investigate the situated view of genre thoroughly, other factors such as discourse community, expectations, conventions, the relationship between texts, and a range of implications of this investigation are also described.

Defining genre

To do the analysis, first, the word “genre” needs to be defined to show a clear direction. In Bhatia’s (1993) view, genre is “an instance of a successful achievement of a specific communicative purpose using conventionalized knowledge of linguistic and discoursal resources” (p. 16). Similarly, Martin and Rose (2002) simplified the definition and defined “genre’ as “a staged, goal-oriented social process” (p. 7). They explained further that:

social because we participate in genres with other people; goal-oriented because we use genres to get things done; staged because it usually takes us a few steps to reach our goals (p. 7).

Although, as what Bhatia (1993) has argued, some proficient writers are willing to break through genre constraints to inspire more creativity, most of them still follow the broad range of generic rules and conventions. Thus, the characteristics of the genre-specific text are what this article will discuss and investigate.

Genre change and genre embedding

Because of the present-day competitive professional climate and the complicated communicative realities, people may place one genre within another directly or mix different kinds of genre for a complex purpose. Bhatia (1997) named these phenomenon “genre embedding” and “genre mixing”. For instance, an academic introduction may look like a promotional letter or a poem may embed in a job advertisement. In advance, he asserted that one of the main expectations of genre theory is “to account for genre-mixing and embedding in professional settings within the context of generic conventions associated with individual genres” (p. 12).

Considering about genre change, Paltridge (2006) indicated that the introduction of new technology may contribute to genre change. Take internet for example, the prevalence of the Internet has changed the existing forms of communications. Thus, some new communicative methods such as email or msn appeared as new genres and have changed our life styles as well.

Genre networks, genre chains, and genre sets

To explore the relationships between genres, another important development in genre theory is the notions of genre networks, genre chains, and genre sets (Paltridge, 2006). A genre chain and a genre network refer to the relationship a particular genre interrelates with other genres. For example, Paltridge (2006) noted that a job interview may interact in a genre chain with a number of other genres in a particular genre network which includes job advertisement, the position description, the letter of application and the resume. A genre set can include more than one genre chain while sometimes a task such as writing a book may require many genre sets and genre chains to be completed. When examining a specific genre, in order to have a further understanding about the genre, the network which the genre connects with other genres should not be ignored.

Primary and secondary readerships

The notion of primary and secondary readerships introduced by Brookes and Grundy (1990) could also assist in analyzing a specific genre. Take writing a thesis for example; the primary reader can be one or more examiners while the secondary readership belongs to the student’s supervisor or anyone else the learner plans to show the thesis for some suggestions. That is, the primary reader plays a key role in judging the task and counts more than other readers.

Analysis approaches

Bhatia (1993, pp. 22-34) purposed that there are seven approaches to carry out a genre analysis. Placing the genre-text in a situational context is the first step. Secondly, surveying the existing literature could be beneficial to gain the relevant background knowledge. Afterwards, refining the situational and contextual analysis is necessary to obtain the whole image. Selecting corpus would be the next step. Then, studying the institutional context and levels of linguistic analysis such as investigating lexico-grammatical features, text-patterning or structural interpretation could be useful. Finally, checking specialist information in genre analysis is important to avoid some mistakes.

However, Bhatia (1993) suggested that it does not mean that all the approaches should be used in a study. By contrast, it should be flexible and purpose-oriented. More precisely, it depends upon the expectation of the analysis, the type of the genre and the background knowledge one already acquired to decide which method should be employed.

To be more practical, Flowerdew (2002) divided genre analysis approaches into two aspects: text and context. The former point of view is a linguistic-oriented which focuses on the lexis, grammar or structures in the text while the latter pay more attention to the situation or context. In advance, he suggested that it depends on the purpose and the audience to decide which approach should be used.

Since this research is more possible to be applied in the area of teaching English, I will first use the linguistic approach to discuss the text and then the context of the specific genre will be taken into consideration and discussion. The text drawn on here was spoken by present Obama in 2008 after he won the president election and other public speaking he addressed from 2004 to 2008 will be compared with.

The purpose of the texts

The communicative purpose is what Bhatia (1993) recommended that the most important factor in genre classification. In the texts, there are several purposes. During the election period, they were mainly delivered to attract voters support to win the election. They were also the tools to communicate their appreciation to the supporters help and to encourage constant advocating of the supporters. Besides, they had the mission to convey Obama’s politics such as encouraging multi-culture and against racism. Also, they are used to respond to other people’s critical opinion and to endeavor to draw opponents’ agreement. On the other hand, to motivate people to trust that Obama will lead them to a better future is another important objective.

The structure of the texts

The structure of the texts could be classified into several catalogues: greeting, introduction, body, conclusion and ending politely. Obama’s public speaking usually begin from the greeting part such as “hello, Chicago” or “thank you” to show his gratitude to other people. In the aspect of introduction, He is familiar to mention the place where held the speech such as “the great state of Illinois” (2004). Or mentioning the audience and make them feel proud, for example:

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America! (Obama, 2008b)

In this paragraph, Obama almost mentioned all the race and people that live in America to express his respect to everyone. This approach can provide a friendly relation between the speaker and the audience in the beginning of a speech. In the next move, some politics such as education reform are provided; some challenges are answered and some stories which involve the history of the nation and the growth of the citizens are told. By the clear and powerful statements, the spirit of cooperation is cultivated. After that, in the conclusion part, Obama usually illustrated a better future and a more perfect union to persuade the audience to stand with him. Finally, to end politely, some blessing, such as “thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America”, will be expressed while the speech can be finished in a grateful attitude with this kind of ending (Obama, 2008b).

The setting of the texts

Most of the texts were spoken in public spaces. The president-elect victory speech was happened in American Chicago Grant Park. The time was in 2008. Since the financial crisis happened in the end of 2007 has resulted in the collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments and downturns in stock markets around the world, the economic situation in America still suffered from the crisis in 2008. It is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Thus, that was the time that most American citizens urgent to find hope.

The author and the speaker of the texts

A report have pointed out that not only Obama but also his staff wrote the texts (Wolffe, 2008). Despite that Obama himself was a bestselling author who wrote the book Dreams from my father (2008b) and The audacity of hope (2008a), he was too busy in the election. As a result, he hired some people who have similar political believes and are Democrats to write the speeches for him.

On the other hand, the speaker is always Obama. He is an African American and was born in Hawaii. His multiracial heritage confused him when he was a young adult but later the experience of a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect contributed to build his world view (Obama, 2008b). Besides, he has high educated background and graduates from Harvard Law School. Even though his special background sometimes become the target other politicians criticized, it also help him to gain voters’ support from different races and social status.

The content of the texts

Since the texts were happened in the United States during the period of presidential election, most of the content is about the political views such as taxes, oil, education, energy, and health care. Besides, the history of America, the spirit of equality and independence and the multi-culture growth background are also mentioned frequently. Sometimes, Obama tells some stories about the people he met to convey his opinion. For example, he cited a 106 years old lady’s viewpoint to tell the spirit of change in his victory speech because she has seen the improvement of America through several generations (Obama, 2008b). Within the portraits of these common people, his speech becomes more friendly and believable.

The intended audience for the texts

The primary audiences are the citizens who can affect the outcome of the election. On the other hand, the secondary readership belongs to those people who may watch the speech around the world. Obama knew this; as a result, he also noted that “and to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores…” in his victory speech (2008b).

The relationship between the speaker and the audience of the texts

At first, he was a candidate who wants to obtain voters’ trust and the votes. After he won the election, the relationship changed and he became the president who will govern the nation for four years. Therefore, we can see that the role-change affect his content and attitude in his speeches.

The language and discourse of the texts

The texts are spoken in a formal and organized style.

Besides, Obama knows how to make his speech attractive and how to play rhetoric games. Gallo (2008b) revealed that there are several characteristics of Obama’s speech: parallel structures, alliteration, and rich Imagery.

Firstly, he often draws on parallel structures. That is, repeating the same word or expression at the beginning of successive sentences or phrases. One of the most well-known examples is King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…. I have a dream that… I have a dream that…” (Martin Luther King, 1963). Obama uses the same device frequently. In his victory speech, Obama (2008b) said in the beginning that, ” It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen…It’s the answer…It’s the answer…” Similarly, the repetition of a word or expression at the end of a successive sentences or phrases is also frequently appearing in the speech. One famous example could be seen in the same speech that “…the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can….Yes, we can…Yes, we can”(2008b). This technique could really motivate thousands of supporters.

Secondly, alliteration means that connecting words that start with analogous sounds. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote speech that brought Obama to national attention, he said “do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?” (2004).

Another effective device makes Obama a persuasive speaker is “rich imagery”. The construction of mental pictures is always functional to stir emotions. In his speech, Obama ask the audiences “if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?” (2008b).

Shared values and understandings between the speaker and the audience of the texts

The history of America and the spirit of independence are shared between the speaker and the audience. Also, the American dream, the honor of the nation’s economic achievement, the problem of racism and the financial crisis are all involved in the culture they lived with.

Discussion

Public speaking as a specific genre, apart from a few exceptions, most of the literature on public speaking is formal and organized. A book about public speaking would say sentences such as “be careful that your talk is the middle, not the muddle” or “nice guys finish fast” (Desberg, 1996, p. 120); this reveals that a public speaking is not expected to be messy and casual. Therefore, Obama’s speech is apparent to be designed elaborately to follow the convention of the genre.

Besides, as Bhatia (1997) noted, “genre embedding” is popular in the competitive age. We could also find the phenomenon in Obama’s speeches. For instance, he often uses the genre “story” to convey his thought. The dream of his father, the story of his family and the history of America are the topics appear in his public speaking frequently. Maybe because he is also a bestselling author, sometimes reading his speech articles would make readers feel like reading a fiction. The beautiful rhetorical sentences lead to this kind of genre mixing and, to a certain degree, contribute to his winning of the election.

From the democratic national convention keynote address in 2004 to president-elect victory speech, it is stringed as a “genre chain”. Each speech is connected with each other and eventually leads to the victory. Expanding from the genre chain, the advertisement and the television reports form a genre network. A presidential candidate must be familiar with the work of the genre network.

Obama knows the genre network as well as the expectation of the voters. He also knows the primary audience and the secondary audience of his speeches as we can see the change of his speeches each time for different audiences. For instance, he mentioned not only the people who lived in America but also the people who watched the television relay around the world. This could explain why his speeches are so impressive and affecting.

Implications

Concerning about how to use this analysis in the classroom, it could have many possibilities. Here I provide several implications inspired from the examination.

Firstly, for the sake of teaching English, Paltridge (2001) indicated in his study that, with the analysis of the audience and expectation of a thesis, a learner may understand more analytical and critical kind of work expected on them. Therefore, the thesis may be more possible to be awarded a high grade. He also pointed out that this kind of practice can be useful not only for a particular genre but also for other academic genres and other skills. For instance, they might also be employed in the teaching of reading or for teaching the spoken genre such as the seminar presentation. In addition, there could be more probable applications as long as they are customized for the learner and do not exceed what the learner can succeed. Through this sort of designed training, it helps learners “better understand what a text might assume of them, as well as how they can present a particular position” (Paltridge, 2001, p. 70). Thus, teachers could teach students how to analyze an assignment or a thesis by showing them how to analyze the public speaking.

Besides, these speeches addressed by Obama are all wrote and designed by professionals. Lecturers or tutors could employ them to teach reading or writing by analyzing it. Moreover, by watching the public speaking videos, teachers could even use them to teach listening and speaking while Obama is a good model to imitate. In Japan and Taiwan, there are several private language centers which have adopted Obama’s public speaking to teach English.

On the other hand, the texts could be good material to learn how to improve the ability of public speaking or the skill of oral presentation. Gallo (2008b) asserted that Obama is acquainted with enhancing his delivery be controlling his voice and body language. To be precise, Obama controls the speed in each sentence and paragraph. Monotonous speaking style could not be seen is his speech. Additionally, a well-placed pause could always have dramatic effect. Obama knows how to pause at right moments to make an unforgettable impact while this could also leave the space for audience to applause. Another important factor contributes to a successful speech is body language. Despite that sometimes what Obama looks at is just the teleprompter, he always looks unflappable and communicates confidence, competence, and control. The body language he shows is a good instance can be imitated.

Finally, for teaching the method of inspiration, Gallo (2008b) pointed out that people can borrow from the presidential candidate methods to motivate people. Obama always motivate audience with honor of American history. From the change of the slave system to the equal election right; from the reform of education policy to health care, he is always familiar to light the audiences’ honor and hope. For example, in a speech at 2008, Obama said “we know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change” (Obama, 2008a). His passion about hope is what every leader should have.

More specifically, Gallo (2008a) proposed that people could bringing Obama style stimulation to the office. Several principles could be employed to achieve that. First, Obama always reveals a clear, concise vision to radiate optimism; the example could be as “there’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair” (2008b). Next, he would sell the benefit and paint pictures. The transformation of education, energy, and health care are always mentioned in his speeches. Then, another move is inviting participation. For instance, in his victory speech, Obama would say “this is your victory”; not “this is my victory” (Obama, 2008b). Also, he said” yes, we can”, not “yes, I can” (Obama, 2008b). Thus, the more participation audience are involved, the more support a speaker obtains.

Since Obama is a good presenter and know how to make each word work to move people’s mind, the speeches he delivered could be not only inspirational but also meaningful resources for learners to obtain better language ability or new skills.

Conclusion

To conclude, even though relevant research about Obama’s address still needs more examinations, it nonetheless appears that it could be meaningful and functional in many aspects. Zamel and Spack (1998) have argued that “it is no longer possible to assume that there is one type of literacy in the academy. Academic literacy… now must embrace multiple approaches to knowledge” (p. ix). Thus, it is obviously impractical to have only one culture in the university whose standards and conventions simply have to be learnt for the pupils to achieve academic accomplishment. While new academic areas emerge continuously, more innovative study about genre and relevant theories could contribute to more theoretical and pedagogical implications. The aspiration could be seen in Paltridge’s (2004a) article that ”we, as researchers, need to work to make these complexities as visible as possible to our students as well as help our students understand how they can negotiate academic conventions and academic boundaries in ways which help them achieve their goals, yet maintain their academic voices and identities” (p. 101). Genre-based research of Obama’s pubic speaking could be one of the inspiring methods to acquire second language while an important area for further research in the years to come will be in the refinement of approaches to the analysis of genre.

Word counts

3695 words

References

Bhatia, V. K. (1993). Analysing genre : language use in professional settings. London ;New York: Longman.

Bhatia, V. K. (1997). Genre-mixing in academic introductions. [doi: DOI: 10.1016/S0889-4906(96)00039-7]. English for Specific Purposes, 16(3), 181-195.

Brookes, A., & Grundy, P. (1990). Writing for study purposes : a teacher’s guide to developing individual writing skills. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Desberg, P. (1996). No more butterflies. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Flowerdew, J. (2002). Genre in the classroom: a linguistic approach. In A. M. Johns & I. ebrary (Eds.), Genre in the classroom : multiple perspectives (pp. 91-104). Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum.

Gallo, C. (2008a). Bringing Obama-Style Inspiration to the Workplace.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/nov2008/sb20081111_018468.htm

Gallo, C. (2008b). How to Inspire People Like Obama Does.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/mar2008/sb2008033_156351.htm

Martin, J. R., & Rose, D. (2002). Working with discourse : meaning beyond the clause. London: Continuum.

Martin Luther King, J. (1963). I Have a Dream.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

Obama, B. (2004). Democratic National Convention Keynote Address.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/convention2004/barackobama2004dnc.htm

Obama, B. (2008a). The audacity of hope. Edinburgh: Canongate.

Obama, B. (2008b). Dreams from my father : a story of race and inheritance ([New ed]. ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate.

Obama, B. (2008a). New Hampshire Primary Concession Speech.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamanewhampshireconcessionspeech.htm

Obama, B. (2008b). President-Elect Victory Speech.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/convention2008/barackobamavictoryspeech.htm

Paltridge, B. (2001). Linguistic research and EAP pedagogy. In J. Flowerdew & M. Peacock (Eds.), Research perspectives on English for academic purposes (pp. 55-70). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paltridge, B. (2004a). The exegesis as a genre: An ethnographic examination. In L. J. Ravelli & R. A. Ellis (Eds.), Analysing academic writing : contextualised frameworks (pp. xvi, 279 p. : ill. ; 224 cm.). New York, London: Continuum.

Paltridge, B. (2004b). The exegesis as a genre: an ethnographic examination. In L. J. Ravelli & R. A. Ellis (Eds.), Analysing academic writing : contextualised frameworks (pp. 84-103). New York, London: Continuum.

Paltridge, B. (2006). Discourse analysis : an introduction. London ;New York: Continuum.

Wolffe, R. (2008). In His Candidate’s voice.   Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.newsweek.com/2008/01/05/in-his-candidate-s-voice.html

Zamel, V., & Spack, R. (1998). Negotiating academic literacies : teaching and learning across languages and cultures. Mahwah, NJ ;London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



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