Masaryk university faculty of education



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Pragmatics




While audience involvement strategies are generally associated with the use of 1st person plural, in Kennedy’s case 47% of all pronouns, and not with 2nd person singular, 15% of all pronouns, Kennedy’s speech is an exception to this rule. He employs you five times and your eleven times, when speaking to the Cuban people, trying to win their support.

I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all.

In such case, the use of 2nd person singular should be considered as part of audience involvement strategies, thus amounting to 62% of all pronouns used. There are no rhetorical questions used and neither are let/let’s features.



Chart 8.23

Unlike Truman’s speech and his ‘laundry list’, Kennedy’s numbered naming of planned actions does not have the same, authoritarian effect, mainly due to the correct balance of pronouns and directives.



Third: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

In the above example Kennedy is strict, using words like requiring or attack but he is also a diplomat starting with shall and regard, evoking the feel of lenience. Kennedy is also trying to appeal to the audience as a valiant leader, using religiously charged vocabulary like the modal shall, with almost a Biblical connotation, path or peril and also by addressing the audience as my fellow citizens.

As for Kennedy’s deictic pointers, as shown in chart 8.24, all 76% of the pointers are focused on here and now, suggesting that Kennedy was facing the situation without attempting to avoid it by pointing away.

Chart 8.24



As for media influence, Kennedy does not make use of sound bites, rhetorical questions or three part statements, which are so suitable for a TV broadcast. That said, he does use occasional disjuncts as discourse markers, numbering, repetition, inversion and also pronouns to involve the audience.



The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.

they will be truly free -- free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system,

Kennedy is also occasionally friendly and informal but always within the boundaries of a presidential speech.

...if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.



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