Masaryk university faculty of education

Speech Analyses Lincoln’s Speech

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Speech Analyses

  1. Lincoln’s Speech

    1. Syntax

Lincoln’s speech is 6,282 words long, making it the longest speech of the corpus, contains 217 sentences, with an average sentence length of 29 words. Without a doubt, syntax is the most powerful tool in Lincoln’s speech, making it eloquent and admirable but also thorough and difficult to grasp for a modern day audience. Starting with verb tenses, Lincoln is the master of passive voice, using it 72 times, mainly in sections focused on the issue, steps that failed and justification. Here is Lincoln’s first sentence, setting the tone for the rest of the speech, which is dominated by passive voice, finite clauses, frequent inversion and formal vocabulary.

Having been convened on an extraordinary occasion, as authorized by the Constitution, your attention is not called to any ordinary subject of legislation.

Chart 8.1

Another important part of syntactic analysis is topicalization, noted in chart 8.1. Based on the data, Lincoln focused heavily on topics of justification (32%), they are bad (22%) and steps that failed (16%), leaving behind all other categories. Furthermore it was in these sections that Lincoln chose to use passive voice the most.

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