A semantic analysis of modal verbs in Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign speeches / Huang Wen

Huang, Wen (2013) A semantic analysis of modal verbs in Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign speeches / Huang Wen. Masters thesis, University of Malaya.

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    The main idea of this research is to analyze the English modals in Obama’s speech semantically. Therefore, the main objectives of this research are (i) to determine the frequency count of modal auxiliaries in the selected texts (ii) to analyze selected modal auxiliaries identified in selected Obama’s campaign speeches based on Coates’ (1983) semantic clusters. A total of fifteen Obama’s campaign speeches were selected as the primary data and the modal auxiliaries selected for analysis include WILL, WOULD, CAN, COULD, SHOULD, MUST, OUGHT, SHALL, MAY and MIGHT. All the modal auxiliaries are interpreted based on the framework of Coates’ (1983) semantic clusters. Both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis were applied into this study. In this study, it begins with frequency counts of modal auxiliaries used in the selected speeches. From the frequency counts carried out, it reveals the distribution patterns of the modal auxiliaries identified in the selected speeches. Following the frequency counts, detailed analysis was carried out to examine how modal auxiliaries are used in the context of persuading people in Obama’s campaign speeches. It is found that modals of intention/prediction/futurity and modals of possibility/ability/permission are mostly used in Obama’s campaign speeches. Especially, Modal WILL and CAN are used overwhelmingly, i.e. 222 occurrences (26.3%) and 210 occurrences (24.9%), respectively. This might be due to the nature of the campaign speeches which aim to persuade addressees to vote. In addition, it is the WILL of prediction and CAN of possibility is used most frequently by Barak Obama in delivering his persuasion. The modal auxiliary WILL signifying prediction functions to depict the Obama’s future plans. WILL in many ways foregrounds the objectives of Obama’s government and it functions as a promise thus it increases the addressees’ confidence towards his government. And the modal auxiliary CAN signifying possibility functions to evoke positive emotions and connotations in the mind of all the listeners and remind all citizens to look bright side, thus persuasion is realized through motivation.

    Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
    Additional Information: Dissertation (M.Ling.) -– Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya, 2013
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Semantic analysis; Modal verbs; Barack Obama; 2012; Presidential campaign; Speeches
    Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
    Divisions: Faculty of Languages and Linguistics
    Depositing User: Mrs Nur Aqilah Paing
    Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2015 16:28
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2015 16:28
    URI: http://studentsrepo.um.edu.my/id/eprint/5703

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