Style-Shifting in President Obama’s speeches

Style-Shifting in President Obama’s addresss

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Appendix A


President Obama is known to switch manner during his addresss through his term of office. The style-shift of the President Obama address can denoted to the audience. As presented in the research, President Obama does intentionally utilize the African America Vernacular English discrepancy in the address while talking to the Black audience. However the African America Vernacular English discrepancies can besides be sighted in his address in forepart of the non-black audience which can denote to his speech production manner. One can besides infer that President Obama make style-shift to consort himself with the audience maintaining his single individuality integral. At the same clip, he chooses a certain style-shift in order for the audience to understand and associate to his address.


For a long clip, the construct of “style” adopted by a individual in address has been a subject of argument among the sociolinguistics. Researchs have tried to nail precisely what is the fundamental law of manner and why do people utilize a specific manner in a assemblage. “Style” has many intending for the sociolinguistics. For some, it means the pick of address an single makes when pass oning with other. However, everyone is agreed on the point that an single alterations his/her talking manner based on the audience and the subject under treatment. In this context, one can besides specify “style” as a codification chosen for a specific treatment. The codification includes the tone of an person, the word chosen and the construction of the sentences etc. ( Bell, p.145-147 )

However, manner is besides dependent on the idiom of the talker. It can be regiolect or sociolect. The thought is that every individual speaks in a different manner which is based on who they are and where they belong from. However, within in specific dialectal manner, a talker can take different manner to talk based on the audience, environment and subject etc. This shows the complexness of the construct behind “style.” On the other manus, there is another construct known as “style shifting” which is closely related to manner. For illustration when a talker starts to speak in the local linguistic communication, he/she is seeking to set up intimacy with the audience. ( Bell, p.145-147 )

In United States, the style-shift in President Obama’s addresss is under great arguments. Peoples have by and large noticed that there is noticeable different in the pronunciation of President Obama in different addresss. The fluctuation in the pronunciation is a debate-topic between both analysts and faculty members. It has been interpreted as the indexical of African America Vernacular English. It can be said that President Obama has the ability to switch elegantly and comfortably from standard American English ( white ) to “black language.” This paper evaluates the hypothesis raised publically and academically for Obama’s address i.e. president engages in manner shifting. The undermentioned subdivisions will depict the methods and used for measuring the hypothesis. Furthermore, the paper will besides discourse the consequence and discourse the results in a separate subdivision.


In order to measure the manner switching in Obama’s address, the paper will utilize four addresss of President Obama between January 2008 and September 2011. The addresss which will be evaluated are: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation which will be referred as CBC ; address at Hampton University which will be referred as Hampton University ; King’s Church address and A More Perfect Union. The addresss chosen for the analysis cover the same subject therefore to do certain that figure of external factor impacting the address are minimized while doing “audience” as the lone regulating factor of the addresss. The figure of addresss for analysis is unbroken four as to maintain the limited range of the paper in head. As the intent of the paper is to place the possible lingual characteristics used by President Obama therefore there are footings used throughout the paper: “AAVE” which denotes to the ethnolect called African America Vernacular English and “GAm which denotes to General ( criterion ) English” which is non-ethically pronounced discrepancy of American English. ( Detert, Rasmussen and Kristensen, p.7 )

The first measure in to get down the analysis of the 4 addresss to happen a consequence for the hypothesis. This includes analysing and taging the address for the phonic variables which can uncover variables that can be identified as indexical of African American Vernacular English. For the intent, a computing machine package known as ELAN is used. ELAN is sound treating package. It helps in taging vocalizations in a address and footnoting the vocalizations with different values. However the system is non able to observe the phonic differences in the address. Therefore the phonic difference will be evaluated by the hearers. ( Detert, Rasmussen and Kristensen, p.7 )

The ELAN package has been use to grade and footnote all the variables in the inquiry ( see Appendix A ) . Each variable has been given a value. The variables have besides been marked within the classs i.e. “General American English” or “African America Vernacular English” . For illustration, if there is an note with an ( ING ) variable in the address, the categorical note marks the note as either GAm or African America Vernacular English. The Markss give us the ratio that helps separate between the two classs. The ratios will give us a statistical position of the figure of happenings of the variables in the address. Furthermore, the paper besides investigates the vowel used in the address in a limited range. ( Detert, Rasmussen and Kristensen, p.8 )


The research is focused on happening whether the discrepancies indexical of African America Vernacular English is due to natural flow or is triggered deliberately. The purpose was to find whether there is a comparative patterned advance in the usage of African America Vernacular English discrepancies in the addresss as it would reject the hypothesis i.e. to utilize African America Vernacular English for accomplishing strategic ends by President Obama. To analyse the breaks, each address was divided into a 10 minute intervals. Unfortunately the technique did non supply an accurate grounds of the comparative patterned advance i.e. foregrounding the ( HAPPY ) items by recovering merely the orthographic –y words did non pull any important patterned advance in discrepancies. Furthermore, the retrieval of ( HAPPY ) vowels at the terminal of an vocalization which is followed by a short intermission did non pull an important consequence excessively. Despite the fact that each address and each ten minute interval has been closely analyzed for figure of possibilities, the writer could non happen any comparative patterned advance of the usage of African America Vernacular English in the addresss. Therefore the technique will non be pursued any farther.

Any other of import factor that influences the usage of discrepancies indexical of African America Vernacular English is the subject of the address. In order to happen out the influence of the subject on the ratio of the African America Vernacular English to Gam discrepancies, the research divided the dataset into five different subjects. The five classs in which the subjects were divided are: African Americans ; mentions from Bible ; The United States of America ; personal ideas and experience of President Obama and the class harmonizing to the subject of the address.

It is easy to measure and analyse the hypothesis when the address has the same subject of treatment while the audience is different. One can easy indicate out whether a subject can trip the usage of discrepancies of the two fluctuations in inquiry. It is besides the purpose of the analysis to link the overall findings of different to assist do it possible the retrieval of the two discrepancies based on the subject and the rating of whether certain subjects cause the usage of high or lower figure of discrepancies indexical of African America Vernacular English. Unfortunately, the rating reveals that no subject provoked any important usage of discrepancies indexical of African America Vernacular English. Just like the old retrieval of the ( HAPPY ) vowels in orthographic revealed a higher figure of African America Vernacular English discrepancies, analysing ( HAPPY ) vowels for the subjects besides revealed higher figure of African America Vernacular English discrepancies. This analysis did non demo any important consequences.

In the terminal, it can be said that for the present research the subjects were divided really loosely. However in future, elaborate division of the subjects can bring forth better consequences. However the hypothesis of the usage of higher frequence of African America Vernacular English discrepancies can be impacted by the subject of the address will non be pursued farther. In the undermentioned subdivision, the writer will show the figure of the analysis and the ratios provided for the consequences.


This subdivision presents the outputs on the rating of the four addresss of President Obama. The analysis done will be to reply the inquiry whether Obama displacement manner based on the audience and whether Obama uses the African America Vernacular English manner in forepart of the Black audience or non. In the treatment, we will seek to link the internal determination of the addresss with the external context. It is said that the address is greatly influenced by the societal context of the talker or the address. Therefore for the rating the audience of the address in taken into consideration and President Obama’s personal background can besides assist in supplying penetration into whether Obama uses African America Vernacular English discrepancies when presenting address in forepart of the African Americans. ( Bell, p.141 )

If one tries to measure President Obama’s address against the list of alone phonological African America Vernacular English feature, one can happen out that the above analysis will non be able to supply cogent evidence to term Obama’s address manner an African American Vernacular English. By utilizing a list of phonological African America Vernacular English feature to mensurate Obama’s address will disregard the fact that manner building is a procedure of bricolage. ( Eckert, p.4 ) The thought is to build and give a unique and distinguishable individuality of an person through the address while at the same clip the address should besides be able to associate to the audience. One can understand Obama’s address manner and manner displacement, if one understands that manner is formed by constellating linguistics with a societal significance. Therefore in Obama’s address, the writer has detected multiple lingual discrepancies which can be associated with African America Vernacular English. ( Bell, 141 )

However it can besides be said that the analysis noticed that the discrepancies can besides be associated with the Southern White vascular English ( SWVE ) . However it should be non that manner can be defined as the manner an single talker speaks in relation to the audience. Therefore one can safely presume that it would be irrelevant and meaningless for President Obama to use manner displacement toward Southern White vascular English in the context of the four addresss. As mentioned before, manner of the address has the possible to portray many societal intending utilizing it indexical field. It would be inaccurate to see President Obama usage Southern White vascular English in the context of four addresss holding a dominant black audience as it should be clear to the President Obama that the audience does non portion the societal significances presented by the Southern White vascular English discrepancies. In short it can be said that the lingual feature of African America Vernacular English are different from indexical Fieldss of Southern White vascular English. Therefore there is no ground to believe that President Obama employed intentionally the usage of Southern White vascular English discrepancies in the four addresss.

Now, we shall discourse the combination of the ( HAPPY ) variable and ( ING ) variable noticed in the addresss in the societal context. The audience of the four Obama addresss was largely back therefore one can put the discrepancies in the indexical bunch of African America Vernacular English instead than AWVE. When the three addresss in forepart of the black audience were evaluated, the –in discrepancies in gerunds showed similar ratios i.e. 22 % , 30.5 % and 38.5 % . However, the address delivered by President Obama in forepart of the assorted audience did non demo any –in discrepancy. There was a important usage of the ( ING ) variable followed by an alveolar halt ( [ T ] and [ d ] ) in the three addresss delivered in forepart of the black audience i.e. 38.5 % , 26.3 % and 75 % . Again the address delivered in forepart of the assorted audience shows interestingly result. There were nine minutes through the address where –in discrepancy could hold been used nevertheless the ( ING ) discrepancies is used alternatively and has a 100 % happening. The determination proves that President Obama is cognizant non to talk in a non-ethically pronounced address in the assorted audience. On the other manus, the ground for the absence of the –in discrepancy can be due to a more formal scene. The address was given as a response to the force per unit area of President Obama and his campaigning. In such state of affairs, the President has to do a really clear and precise statement as non to pull any controversial messages out of the address.

Furthermore, the research has besides shown the uninterrupted lowering of the ( HAPPY ) vowel in the four addresss. King’s Church address ( 19.7 % ) and Hampton University Speech ( 29.1 % ) show high frequence in low use of the ( HAPPY ) vowel while the Perfect Union ( 17.9 % ) and CBC address ( 4.2 % ) show low frequence. After detecting the happening of the lowered ( HAPPY vowel ) , one has to look for the syntactic context of the orthographic –y words. The ratio has the same form for the four addresss as for the ( HAPPY ) vowel. The per centum of the ratio for Hampton University and King’s Church address was 55.1 % and 60.4 % severally while ratio for CBC and Perfect Union Speech was 26.8 % .

Analysis was besides on orthographic –y words followed by a consonant which showed a comparative distribution. The King’s Church address and Hampton University Speech show high per centum distribution the –y words followed by harmonic i.e. 40 % and 45.6 % severally while the Perfect Union address show 8.1 % of distribution. Interestingly, the CBC address did non demo any lowering of the ( HAPPY ) vowel under the circumstance. The overall consequence of the analysis of the ( HAPPY ) vowel shows that king’s church address and Hampton University address had higher figure of black audience which could be related to the lowering of the ( HAPPY ) vowel. President Obama lowers the ( HAPPY ) vowel in his address in the black audience. Nevertheless the form is besides detected in the address of President Obama in forepart of the non-black audience. Therefore one can infer that this displacement manner in the President address can be denote to his natural manner of speech production.

In short, the paper would indicate out that the little dataset and two variables used in the research can non be able to infer the manner displacement in the President Obama speech decently. One can non turn out that Obama uses manner displacement toward African America Vernacular English intentionally or accidentally. However, the little dataset that was used in the research shows relevancy towards the usage of African America Vernacular English which can be used to presume that it is Obama’s natural manner of speech production. One is besides able to infer the President Obama manner displacement will non be a basilectal manner. But one can state that President Obama address manner can be taken as the most esteemed criterion for African America Vernacular English. But one has to measure more addresss in the hereafter to come to a more significant decision.

However, the addresss have shown different ratios of the discrepancies indexical of African America Vernacular English and Gam. The King’s Church address and the Hampton University Speech was delivered in forepart of the black audience show a high per centum of the African America Vernacular English discrepancies while the Perfect Union address was delivered in forepart a assorted audience showed lower per centum as compared to the other two addresss. But the research besides detected African America Vernacular English discrepancies in the Perfect Union address. However the consequences of the CBC address were dramatic and different. Therefore one is safe to state that the research did observe a difference in the addresss in forepart of the black and assorted audience which points out that President Obama intentionally use specific discrepancies in the address.


There are multiple characteristic and features that impact the manner an single speak. In short, each person has their ain manner of speech production. Furthermore, during conversations many single intentionally and accidentally manner displacement in their address depending on the audience. In United States, the manner displacement of President Obama is under great argument. One can safely state that the President knows the endowment of comfortably switch manner during his addresss. His address manner depends greatly on the subject of the address, audience, and his ain speech production manner. In the research, the writer evaluated four addresss of President Obama to happen out whether he manner displacement during the address in forepart of the black audience or non. The research was able to suggest based on four addresss that President Obama does utilize the African America Vernacular English discrepancy intentionally in forepart of the black audience. However there was besides high per centum of African America Vernacular English discrepancies use in forepart of the non-black audience which can denote to the fact that President Black himself in black. Therefore the African America Vernacular English discrepancy is portion of his speech production manner.


Bell, A. ( 1984 ) . Style as Audience Design.

Detert, A. C. , Rasmussen, D. S. , & A ; Kristensen, K. R. ( 2013 ) . Barack Obama and the [ bl?k kE™E?mjuE?nE™tE› : ] -A survey of style-shifting.Diss.

Eckert, P. ( 1996 ) . Vowels and Nail Polish: The Emergence of Linguistic Style in the Preadolescent and Heterosexual Marketplace.

Eckert, P. ( 2008 ) . Variation and the Indexical Field.Journal of Sociolinguistics, 12 ( 4 ), 453-476.

Fisk, J. ( 1982 ) .Introduction to Communication Studies.London: Routledge.


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