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Nixon’s speech

  1. Syntax

Nixon’s speech is 4,583 words long, the second longest after Lincoln’s, with 227 sentences and 20 words on average per sentence. In terms of syntax, the speech is more similar with Truman’s than with Kennedy’s, as there is an ample number of short sentences (less than 10 words), and the sentence structure uses coordination rather than subordination. Often, it is these sharp, short sentences, which appeal to the audience.

Ultimately, this would cost more lives. It would not bring peace; it would bring more war.

As for the syntactic strengths, if Roosevelt’s speech with 700 words had no words to spare or to add as their precise use gave them strength, then Nixon needs every word in his speech, be it over four thousand, as that is where his strength comes from. Nixon explains, confirms and justifies over and over rendering futile any counter arguments and hammering it home in filibuster-like fashion.

Nixon describes briefly the issue (9%) and moves onto more important topics such as steps that failed (20%), our plan (21%) and finally justification taking up 25% of his speech. Chart 8.25 also shows him allotting 16% of his speech to appeal to an American values, using short paragraphs or sentences of motivational talk between the topics of justification or plans, to keep reminding the audience of the ‘big picture.’

Chart 8.25

There is very little of passive voice as Nixon is not afraid to point fingers and use agents in almost every sentence. The organization of the discourse is for the most part logical, governed by diachronic approach, sometimes going back in time but in an organized manner. Irritating are the length of the speech and the topics covered as they do not always pertain to the issue at hand. Nixon uses this speech as an opportunity to announce in great detail the elements of the Nixon doctrine including its success, to cite letters to or from presidents or to disclose earlier personal initiatives on the Vietnam War, all in order to provide justification for staying in Vietnam.

      1. Semantics

If Roosevelt’s speech was precise, Kennedy’s speech was traditional and Truman’s speech was informal, then Nixon’s speech is friendly and frank. He is the first president to use well as a discourse marker and also to use a question-answer approach, giving the speech an impression of a dialogue, such as in the example below.

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