Masaryk university faculty of education

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Obama’s speech

  1. Syntax

Obama’s speech is 3,398 words long, contains 159 sentences with 21 words per sentence on average. This average is higher than Bush’s, mainly due to Obama’s ample use of dashes within a sentence, making the sentences syntactically longer, but still enabling him to divide them when speaking.

On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all - even in limited ways - in this distant land.

Syntactic structure is evenly distributed between coordinated and subordinated sentences, with simple conjunctions like and, but or because, verbless clauses or non-finite clauses, mainly using active voice.

Chart 8.36

As Obama’s speech is given in retrospect, after the attack on Libya took place, there are certain topics completely omitted, such as steps that failed, ultimatum or declaration and our plan. Obama focuses on justification the most (28%), making sure his actions are understood, approved and also disassociated from his predecessor, President Bush, by openly criticizing his decisions on Iraq.

To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. ... That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

Further, Obama explains why the attack involves air strikes only and why supervising the Libyan “regime change would be a mistake.” Obama’s justification of the attack goes hand in hand with a strong appeal to American values and abundant talk about the future, which will be discussed later. Obama also focuses on an agenda not directly related to the attack on Libya but clearly important to him. He revisits the rules of engagement for the United States, assuring the audience of sharing the costs and risks with the international community. Overall, considering the swiftness of the physical attack on Libya itself, the length of the speech is inadequately long, showing Obama’s potential uncertainty about the audience’s reception.

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