Along with millions of others, all around the world, I was watching and listening to the inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday.
The coverage has continued apace since then of course, including analysis of the language of the inaugural address.
And yes, I’ve been following that with equal interest and fascination.
Here are 5 different takes on the speech. Some are based on visual analysis – I’ve included screen shots for them but you really need to visit the site to get the full picture.
Published by the New York Times, this highlights the words most frequently used in each of the presidential speeches. You can get a quick overview of the differences by clicking on the timeline at the top. Here’s how it looks, with Obama’s speech highlighted.
David Meerman Scott takes a look at the speech from a marketer’s perspective, analysing the ‘inclusive’ nature of the language. He’s interested in particular how different speeches make use of “I” and “me” versus “we” and “us”.
People want to hear about what’s in it for them, and they are looking for answers to problems
This is one of the most interesting tools I came across. It gets you right into the construction of the speech. You can play with it yourself by changing the root at the top that you search by. The screen shot below is based on a search for “we will…” See what happens when you try a root of “I”. Or other verbs – “we can”, “we must”. Interesting stuff
Breaking Down the Language Used and Learning From It
Lynn Gaertner-Johnson deconstructs the language of the speech including use of the passive tense and sentences that start with a conjunction. I concur with her observations, incluing these 2:
1. You can move a nation and a world writing at 8th-grade level.
2. It is perfectly okay to use passive verbs selectively.
Very thoughtful analysis of the speech from Roy Peter Clark including a look at Obama’s use of metaphors. He highlights the fact that the speech did not ‘soar’, nor did it include any obvious soundbites.
In an age of spin perhaps this is something for which we should be grateful.
As Clark says:
Political rhetoric should be judged not just on its inspirational eloquence, but also on its ability to move an audience, not just to tears, but to action.
What struck you most about the language of the address? Do these kind of tools and analysis help you to understand how and why the speech affected you in the way that it did?
I was reading:
Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present from the New York Times
Inclusive Language Ratio comparing first Obama presidential address with last from Bush by David Meerman Scott
Obama Inauguration Speech Word Tree from Many Eyes
Deconstructing the Inaugural Address by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston
Obama’s Inauguration Speech Relies on the Rhetoric of Responsibility by Roy Peter Clark
If you’ve come across any other tools and analysis please do let me know.
Photo Credit: Screen Captures, Inauguration Day 2009 by Rosa Say on Flickr
Many of the links were found through friends on Twitter, for which many thanks.