The language used by Barack Obama in his 2008 victory speech can be described as clear and rhetorically interesting – it is easy to follow and to remember thanks to vivid images, repetitions, and allusions.

Choice of words

The choice of words reflects a formal style – “has not perished from the Earth” (l. 68) – with occasional informal language – “the new puppy” (l. 39).

The words chosen by the speaker are often evocative, related to historical events and their link to present American politics. Obama creates a contrast between negative words which describe the recent past (mainly targeting the Republican administration) and words with positive meaning which describe the present and the future.

Some relevant examples of negative words are: “cynical and fearful and doubtful” (l. 17), “generation's apathy” (l. 62), “a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis” (ll. 74-75), “the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity” (ll. 109-110), etc. Some words generating positive images are: “the hope of a better day” (ll. 18-19), “this defining moment” (l...

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