Masaryk university faculty of education



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Semantics

Among the top ten nouns used by Wilson, depicted in table 8.10 are anticipated words such as government or people but also words of universal concern such as world, rights, nation(s), peace or law, indicative of global issues, relating to World War I. but also a global reach, which the United States was counting on.

Table 8.10



GOVERNMENT (S)

29

RIGHT(S)

25

PEOPLE (S)

18

NATION(S)

17

WAR

13

WORLD

10

PEACE

8

LAW

6

MEN

6

CONGRESS

5

While Wilson’s vocabulary is not as emotionally charged as in McKinley’s case, nonetheless, words like cruel, reckless or bereaved are strong and evoke compelling imagery. Closely related is the concept of binary conceptualizations, which are used on at least four occasions, with an example below:

I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of non-combatants, men, women, and children…have always been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be.

Wilson juxtaposes the loss of property and destruction of lives against the legitimacy and innocence of not just people, but namely men, women and children. This explicit use of women and children especially is very effective. Further, Wilson skillfully navigates through the discourse with the use emotive expressions in frames focused particularly on human rights, as in the following example. When looking at the words in bold, positive evolution occurs in nouns: choice, moderation, counsel, temperateness, character, nation, not revenge, (not) might, vindication, right, champion; with the support of pronouns all in 1st person plural, moving toward the ultimate goal of depicting America as a nation of integrity, humility and restrain.



The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness for judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

The paragraph starts with making a difficult choice, pushing aside feelings of excitement, revenge, hunger for victory or physical might, and finally the nation emerges as a single champion of right, of human right, the most prized of all. Not all paragraphs make use of frames as much as this one, but their use is nonetheless effective and somewhat numerous, applied in altogether ten instances.

Wilson is quite explicit, particularly in the area of circumstantial evidence serving as justification, explaining all details of the conflict, giving concrete names and instances of attacks, not making much use of presupposition. Parallelism is more favored, as Wilson re-tells his ideas in a different manner, often with help of different frames or expressions.

Metaphors are again rare. Worth mentioning is an emotional personification of America as a woman, combined with a strong appeal toward city upon a hill principle, urging people to fight for principles of their forefathers:



America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.



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