How Adichie engages the audience

Style of writing and choice of words

The language used by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TED talk features both formal and informal elements. Contractions such as “wasn’t” or “didn’t” and informal expressions such as “never mind” (l. 12) are used alongside complex phrases and formal terms like “to dispossess and to malign” (l. 104) or “colonial creation of the African state” (l. 74). The advanced terms points to Adichie’s high level of education, but the more everyday phrases also help to make the language generally accessible.

Adichie uses many adjectives and adverbs: “my wonderfully ambitious hair braider” (l. 93), “a ridiculous law” (l. 89), “the wonderful poet Rudyard Kipling” (l. 64). This choice of words suggests a descriptive style of language used to emphasise characteristics of certain people or concepts. The language also suggests the speaker’s feelings regarding the topic, showing either her approval of disapproval.

She also makes use of Nigerian words. She talks about “nkali”, an Igbo word that is “a noun that loosely translates to ‘to be greater than another’ ” (ll. 66-67). She uses this word to talk about the power structures that exist in the world and to define the way stories are constructed. Her use of Nigerian words and her references to various Nigerian languages such as Igbo, Youruba, and Ijo (l. 87) are relevant because they show the diversity of Nigerian culture and the richness of Nigerian languages. Adichie also uses words that describe traditional African elements, creating a sense of her cultural heritage. She talks about yam (l. 29), a plant that is native to Africa and widely cultivated in Nigeria. She also describes “a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia” (ll. 32-33), a traditional African craft item.

Use of pronouns

Most of the talk makes use of first-person personal pronouns. Adichie uses first-person singular pronouns (“I”, “my”) in the beginning of the speech when she wants to establish her authority, credibility, and intentions: “I’m a sto...

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