Analysis of transcripts of speeches made by Tony Blair and George Bush to the Iraqi people in April 2003
In April 2003 Tony Blair and George Bush both spoke to the Iraqi people about ending Saddam’s regime. Both of them use their language effectively but in different ways.
Tony Blair immediately introduces himself using the phatic function.
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“This is Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.” He refers to himself in the third person instead of the first; this almost creates an illusion of formality.
In the first paragraph especially Tony uses loaded language when describing the years under Saddam Hussein’s rule. He uses a triplet of abstract nouns,
“Brutality, oppression and fear.” He uses a triplet for emphasis and presumably to make sure he has got the point across to the Iraqi people.
Blair uses long sentences (in comparison to Bush’s which on average are shorter) but manages to keep each phrase short by including a lot of commas and semi-colons so his ideas are still easily comprehended. He does this particularly effectively in the third paragraph of the transcript where he uses seven commas in only five lines. An example is where he says; “This Iraq will not be run by Britain, or by the US, or by the UN.” By using more punctuation, his language flows better and this adds cohesion to the text.
However, he does the opposite in the fourth paragraph when in an exceedingly lengthy sentence he joins several clauses and phrases with the word “and”. This has an opposite effect in that it prevents the flow of the spoken word but it emphasises each clause and phrase is if it were a separate sentence.
Although the beginning of the speech was in the phatic function, a lot of what Tony Blair says uses the conative function since he is trying to win the side of the Iraqi people. Blair tries throughout his speech to create a familiarity between the people of Iraq and himself, as they are whom he is directing this speech to. He is constantly reusing the pronouns “you” and “your” and the phrase “the Iraqi people” to build up an affinity between him and the Iraqi’s. The use of “you” and “yours” particularly make the Iraqi people feel more involved and convinced of righteousness, this is an obvious illustration of the conative function. An example of this in the text is when he says, “The money from Iraqi oil will be yours; to be used to build prosperity for you and your families.”
However, he also attempts to build up an animosity between the people of Iraq and Saddam’s former rule. Blair uses strings of triplets such as, “murdered, tortured, brutalised” and “brutality, oppression, and fear”. These build up an image of hostility against “Saddam’s regime” and place emphasis on the cruelty and brutality of Saddam. He repeats the use of the word “regime” when describing the rule of Saddam. This seems to be a word with far more negative connotations than “rule”, “era” or “control”. Furthermore, on a couple of occasions he followed the word regime with other negative words. For example, the words “plundered” and “stolen”, which also add to the negative description of Saddam’s rule.
On the other hand he uses pairings of words when describing the coalition forces or the Iraqi people (in other words the opponents of “Saddam’s regime”). He uses pairings of words such as “friends and liberators”, “inventive, creative”, “peace and security” and “life and future”. Blair coupled these words together to be emphatic as in each pairing he is trying to convince the Iraqi people.
In the same way as Tony Blair, George Bush began his speech using the phatic function. He begins, “This is George W Bush, the President of the United States.”
This again is create an illusion of formality as he uses the 3rd person but it since Blair uses the same function, Bush is trying to create a sense of partnership between the two leaders.
At the beginning of Bush’s speech a lot of present active verbs are used such as “being”, “ending” and “operating”. One can presume that he is using the present continuous tense to indicate that something is happening and that they (the coalition forces) are in control. This is also use again of the phatic function. Bush uses the phatic throughout but tries to avoid the conative function. However, he sometimes includes the phrase “Iraqi people” and the pronouns “you” and “your”.
When describing Saddam’s rule Bush uses the word “gang” which is almost a pejorative term to describe Saddam’s long lasting rule of Iraq. This has far more negative connotations than “regime” which also has negative connotations.
Although he does use “regime” further on in his speech “gang” seems to be a word, which has connotations to mean “petty” and “relatively small”. These words are both contradictory to the word Saddam’s “rule” which has more positive connotations.
Bush places the adjective “corrupt” before the word “gang” describing Saddam’s “rule”. He uses words with negative connotations to describe Saddam’s ‘rule’. This is done again later on in his speech where he describes Saddam’s rule as “brutal regime”, “cruel dictator” and “terrible persecution. These all follow the idea of placing a word with negative connotations in front of a perhaps pejorative or negatively charged noun. This technique was used also by Blair to distance the Iraqi people from the memory of Saddam’s former rule.
However, Bush also describes the coalition forces goals using the word “limited”. This seems to be a strange word to use since it has connotations of being “unsure” which is the opposite of what George Bush wants to appear to the Iraqi people. However, this may be since Bush is American and in American English perhaps more positive connotations have developed for this word.
Bush makes promises by using the future tense. He repeats the phrase “we will” several times over to portray the idea of optimism regarding the coalition forces.
Bush resorts to using “regime” instead of “gang” since it is a more neutral word, which may hold negative connotations but is nonetheless definitely not patronising.
However, Bush says an ambiguous phrase, which can be read to be positive or negative. Bush says, “-and that regime is your enemy as well”. Here he is talking directly to the Iraqi people and at this point uses the conative function. On one hand he is trying to be on the same side as the people of Iraq as before this statement he says, “Our only enemy is Saddam’s brutal regime”. However, it is phrased in a matter that could be deemed almost patronising towards the Iraqi people as it is speaking down to them. Furthermore, he is directly telling them what to think by using “your” which is more personal.
Bush uses repetition of the word “free” since freedom is something that the Iraqi people have lacked. This will undoubtedly seem appealing to the Iraqi people and thus is repeated for emphasis. Normally Bushes sentences are much shorter than Blair’s but in one in the fourth paragraph uses the same technique as Blair. By keeping the sentence content long but clearly separating each phrase or clause with a comma the content should be obviously interpreted by the Iraqi people.
However, Bush again manages to utter an ambiguous phrase when now describing the Iraqi groups. Bush says, “And all the people who make up your country- Kurds, Shi’a, Turkomans, Sunnis, and others”. This is an attempt to make the speech more personal to the Iraqi people. In many ways it is; if you are someone from any one of these groups than you will feel accepted but if you are not part of any of those groups than you may feel excluded. However, his attempt at trying to seem more personal would be quite effective since the majority of Iraqi people come under these groups.
George Bush like Blair follows Siseroy’s theory of repetition. He uses it to describe the people of Iraq (e.g. “good and gifted”) or to describe Saddam (e.g. “fear and cruelty”) but also uses triplets of nouns to describe both Iraq and Hussein’s rule. He describes the regime saying “tyranny and corruption and torture chambers”. Instead of commas he links the nouns together with the determiner “and”. This places emphasis on each noun.
Both speakers stick to the phatic function but Tony Blair delves more into the conative function as he is trying to persuade whereas George W Bush is trying more to outline exactly what the coalition forces are planning on doing.
Furthermore, they both use the word “people” to describe the Iraqi’s which lets the Iraqi’s feel as one being. It is almost complimentary as the word “people” is quite a neutral term, which has positive connotations to mean unified.
The two speakers manage a similar style of speech but the only obvious difference is that Bush delves further in to the future tense than Blair as Bush stays in the phatic function and explains his intentions (for most part) and Blair uses the past tense to describe what has happened. Blair’s style is more effective in using the conative function since it dwells on what has happened and convinces the people of Iraq to follow the coalition to avoid what has happened.
Neither is more effective, yet Bush uses the phatic and Blair uses the conative more.