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Great leaders and presidents through out the centuries have used


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Seham Sanousian

   Rhetoric history and its usage in English Language

          I Have A Dream (Martin Luther King )
Great leaders and presidents through out the centuries have used the
public speeches techniques in various styles to affect live audience.
They resorted to techniques defined as Rhetoric. The Collins Shorter
Dictionary has provided four definitions of Rhetoric; firstly, it was
defined as the study of the technique of using language effectively,
secondly, the art of using speech to persuade or please, thirdly,
excessive ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written
discourse and finally the speech or discourse that pretends to be
significant but lacks true meaning. (Cited in Using English, Maybin
& Mercer P.122).

Robin Wooffit has pointed that the original basis for the study of
Rhetoric in English goes all the way back to the classical Graeco –
Roman studies of Oratory and was used for many purposes not only
for political speeches but also for public speaking in English such as
sermons of Christians evangelists and an intimate kind of persuasive
speech – conversation in which people describe their paranormal
experiences to researcher .
As for the development of Rhetoric it was to be taught in British
universities until the later part of nineteenth century and in other
parts of English speaking world such as the United States. Rhetoric
is still an established subject of English studies in schools and
universities. (Maybin & Mercer Using English p. 122).

Going back to the ancient Greek civilization they were three types of
Rhetoric: Judicial (the use of language to argue legal cases),
Deliberative (to persuade an audience to take a certain course of
action) and demonstrative (which was used in formal public
ceremonies). Roman Orators had all the credit of developing Greek
Rhetoric and how it became a subject taught in Europe & North
Seham Sanousian

Cicero (106-43 BC) was a Roman Orator who formulated sets of
recommendations as the most effective ways of representing
arguments in judicial settings. But there were also other Rhetorical
additions which had its impact on the way English is used in public
speaking nowadays. The subject of how rhetoric is used to persuade
and entertain other people is a major concern of sociolinguistics, and
critical linguistics.

One of the most developed approaches to the study of rhetoric is the
conversation analysis which helps to reveal structure patterns &
techniques in the way English language is used to persuade and
convince. (Maybin & Mercer Using English pp. 122-123)

Our most concern here is the political Rhetoric which was designed
to attract the attention of an audience and gain their approval
support. This support can be viewed in many ways such as cheering
clapping of hands. A research by a British sociolinguist Max
Atkinson (1984 a; 1984 b) suggested that the way in which a point is
presented may also influence the likelihood of applause. Atkinson
derived three crucial features of Applause: the varying intensity of
applause, the precise moment the applause begins & ends and the
length of Applause. (Adapted from Atkinson 1984 a p. 63).

All above mentioned has been vividly illustrated in the extract of
Martin Luther King who has relied on different techniques which
studies have identified as features of Rhetoric. Firstly the applause
has reoccurred in short bursts every time he repeated the phrase (
One Hundred Years ) ,. Martin Luther kind has cleverly played on
the audiences' feelings by stressing on the period of one hundred
years later, that have revoked the memories which were hidden at
the back of their minds .beside there was affirmations from the
audience such as (YEAH) expressing their approval on what has
been said & yet even more cleverly he used repetition to emphasize
the long period they lived deprived from their basic rights.

Another feature of Rhetoric was the utilization of the three parts list
technique,Martin has raised his intonation by stating (the Negro is
still crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of
Seham Sanousian

discrimination ) then he kept it up while dropping the second
sentence quoting ( the Negro still lives on a lonely island of poverty
in the midst of an ocean of material prosperity ) . Then he produced
a downward intonation by stating the last point in his three part list (
the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American Society and
Finds      himself      an      exile     in     his     own      land
) . his goal was to implify and strengthen more general points, he
thought he would revoke audience to approve and make a difference

Depending on what has been mentioned above we came to know
that the way speeches are constructed & built using the proper
techniques & linguistics is far more important than gathering
sentences and having no effect , the art of raising the intonation at
the correct moment can revoke the audience to approve and support
the speaker which is considered the desired goal for any speech .

References :

1-Using English From Conversation To Canon (Janet Mabin & Neil
Mercer )
2-the video cassette VCI Band 3 Martin Luther King

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