The Influence of Rhetorical Strategies and Devices on Cohesion and Coherence in Loving Your Enemies

Term Paper, 2011

20 Pages, Grade: Sehr Gut


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Analysis

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

“To perform their part in the dialogue, King’s audiences must have been continually on the look-out for opportunities to respond. They must also therefore have had to concentrate very closely on everything he said. Had they not sustained a heightened level of attentiveness, his audiences would have been incapable of participating in the vibrant manner so typical of southern black congregations.” (Atkinson 1984: 108) Considering most of Atkinson’s analytical descriptions and suggestions of Martin Luther King’s activist speeches, it can be well observed that the author includes not only explanations on the ‘text-intern’ level but also characterizations on linguistic as well as non-linguistic criteria beyond the written textual zone (e.g. reactions of the audience, audio-visual signs etc.). Regardless of the great relevance of linguistic features such as aspects of phonology or the impact of technical terminology, e.g. the use of loudspeakers and cameras, the aim of this term paper is to outline the relationship between three different items (two of which are of a linguistic and one of a social nature), that is, the liaison between rhetorical devices-cohesion/coherence, -and- emotionality. Such an analytical approach does not, in any way, neglect the idea that non-linguistic patterns of behaviour, such as facial expressions, gestures, or eye movements as decisive components of body language are entirely autonomous features to be treated separately from notions of textuality. On the contrary, it seems that all these items are embedded in a large and complex network as sets of tools that, in a healthy combination, decide upon the degree of success of an orator’s speech and make speech delivery ‘happen’. Richard Lanham, in particular, relates to the Aristotelian modes of persuasion that constitute the “goal of Rhetoric.” They are “(1) ethos, or the demonstration of the speaker’s good character (2) pathos, or playing on the audience’s feelings, and (3) logos, what today we would call “proof” of some sort.” (Lanham 1991: 115) If these groups of features may be defined as ‘sets’ of tools, ethos presumably includes the rhetorical strategy ‘identification of speaker with audience’ (Kettemann 2009: 2) and supposedly character traits derived from body language as well as social relations between the orator and the individual recipient. Pathos, as a further category of rhetorical persuasion, may also include social relations in the sense that the orator knows about the audience’s expectations, values or political orientation to which he adjusts the manner of delivering his speech, or more exactly, the kinds of rhetorical devices that he chooses. Logos, finally, seems to be most concerned with notions of textuality, such as cohesion and coherence. Here, it is essential that the audience grasps the respective arguments of the speaker, and most importantly, the logical or semantic relations and ties between the individual arguments that are most frequently structured in paragraphs. In essence, an overlap between these categories is inevitable, which is absolutely essential – without the awareness of ethos (~ ’knowing’ or ‘feeling’ the audience), how could the speaker possibly play with the audience’s feelings (~ pathos)? And how else could he / she convince the audience of his arguments (~ logos)? One without the other seems to trigger off a domino reaction that leads to a failure of successful speech delivery. And yet, for the purposes of text-linguistics and due to the limited textual substance of this term paper, linguistic as well as non-linguistic items beyond the written textual level must be omitted. Furthermore, in terms of complexity, Atkinson himself seems to encounter difficulties at this point: “Because of the frequency and range of these audience responses, together with Martin Luther King’s own extensive use of variations in volume, intonation and rhythm, it is virtually impossible to transcribe his speeches in a way that is both accurate and readable.” (Atkinson 1984: 108f) Accordingly, the analysis focuses on the written script of Loving Your Enemies and will ponder on the validity of the personal hypothesis/thesis (~ research question) that, rhetorical devices have a significant influence on cohesion and coherence in King’s speech and that the latter textual notions, cohesion and coherence, may lead to an emotional and positive response by the audience. The audience shall be reduced to me, on the basis that the analysis is theoretical in conception and that every human being develops his emotions differently (~ a subjective matter, supposedly). Also, due to the immense length of Loving Your Enemies, the analysis shall include some charts to enable a more compact and focused compilation of a monograph of the depicted research task and hypothesis.

2. Analysis

In ‘Cohesion in English’, Michael Halliday puts forward the suggestion that “a text is best regarded as a semantic unit: a unit not of form but of meaning. Thus it is related to a clause or sentence not by size but by realization, the coding of one symbolic system in another. A text does not consist of sentences; it is realized by, or encoded in, sentences.” (Halliday 1976: 2) This apparently simple, but very fundamental and important observation is one that I strongly recommend as a core theoretical layer on which to build the analysis of King’s speech Loving Your Enemies. It seems to me that these descriptions bear in mind that not everything someone compiles is indeed a text; that a text does not merely include sentences, but that it is very much relevant how sentences are interconnected or woven in order to form a meaningful unit that can be considered a text. In short, the definition refuses to accept as the one and only textual characteristic the precondition that a text must merely contain sentences. Rather Halliday extends this claim semantically, to conclude that sentences have to be tied to each other to form a meaningful ‘whole’. A fascinating aspect may be considered the assumption that these characterizations also include, or presuppose, a standard of textuality other than cohesion and coherence, that is, the notion of intentionality (Reitbauer 2011: 4). Intentionality means that the text producer’s intention to compile a cohesive and coherent text is absolutely necessary and inevitable, a feature particularly important for political or activist speeches to succeed. From the very beginning in Loving Your Enemies, King effectively signalizes his intention to identify with the audience and to transmit his messages clearly. Even though he may place himself on a pedestal by identifying with a preacher, King actually articulates that he insisted to come to “preach” (King 1957: l.7) despite his rather bad health condition. Thence, he signalizes that the audience is more important to him than his own health, provoking sympathy from the people and hence a fairly easy access for mutual identification. Though this initial paragraph omits rhetorical devices per se (with the exception of lexical repetition), the sentences are very well interconnected and manage to integrate the above mentioned rhetorical strategy “identification of speaker with audience” very skilfully. According to the outlined cohesive features in “Text Linguistics: From Page to Screen” (Reitbauer 2011: 5), this paragraph is rich in cohesive devices as follows:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

It must be added that the topic entities for the semantic fields in question are optional and may be replaced by other terms. Also, lexical repetition as the only rhetorical device qualifies as a cohesive feature. It seems that the repetitions of the lexemes ‘preach’ and ‘bed’ take on a double function, a) to promote cohesion by acting as co-referential members (among others) in semantic fields with common topic entities, and b) to create a feeling of mutual identity by foregrounding the idea that the occasion of King’s speech delivery with his audience is a sacred event and that his health is less important than his meeting with the people. Phonetic repetitions, such as consonance in line 2 (“b e b est”) and 5 (“t o t ry t o follow…) seem to be optional ornament, but from my point of view none really planned or intended during the writing process. Similarly, the second paragraph of the speech includes lexical repetition and, as a newly introduced rhetorical device, hendiadyoin. It seems important to stress the fact that some lexical repetitions are anaphoric to the first paragraph because they are identical, such as “preach” (l.7, 8, 9), or “pulpit” (l.2). In fact, lexical interconnection in form of cohesion dominates the entire speech in a tremendous network of various semantic fields with lexical repetitions and other rhetorical devices as well as rhetorical strategies to facilitate comprehension. This second paragraph in particular illustrates how well lexical repetitions as a central cohesive feature as well as hendiadyoin as a rhetorical device complement each other and promote coherence, which studies “the connections that create a meaningful interpretation of texts.” (Yule 2006: 239) In these lines, King stresses the great relevance of the ‘subject’ (l.8) that he is going to preach from and uses the lexical repetitions ‘familiar’ (l.7), ‘preach’ (l.7,8,9), ‘new experiences’ (l.10,11) and ‘new insights’ (l.10,11) just to keep mentioning the relevance of the upcoming topic and its depiction in a new and personal way. At a closer look, the lexemes ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’ (l.9), which occur together as hendiadys, adopt the very same function as the before mentioned lexical repetitions in that they are to ‘drill’ into the people’s minds that it is almost a routine and integrated part of King’s life to preach from this ‘subject’, which in the following paragraph turns out to be the fifth chapter of the gospel by Saint Matthew. This example suggests that there is a clear corresponding relation (~ ‘drilling’ information through repetition or synonymy) between the respective rhetorical device hendiadyoin and the cohesive feature lexical repetition. Also, repetition seems to relate powerfully to emotionality on the grounds that the idea that the topic is so familiar to the audience suggests that King and the recipients know each other very well. This becomes even clearer when King mentions the fact that the subject is familiar to the people because he has preached from it ‘twice before to [his] knowing in this pulpit’. (l.8) The next paragraph specifies the topic love and uses a very efficient rhetorical strategy, ‘polarization of issues’ (Kettemann 2009: 2), to disagree morally with the concept of hatred, the counterpart of love. Similarly to rhetorical devices, this rhetorical strategy reoccurs in many paragraphs and thus strongly promotes cohesion and coherence in Loving Your Enemies. By embedding rhetorical devices, such as lists, epitheton, or lexical repetition in ‘polarizing’ passages, King seems to impose a ‘double’ effect in terms of emotional manipulation on the recipients’ minds: ‘‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. (l.17-19) […] So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist.’ (l.24, 25) Polarization in these sections is best identified by the conjunctions ‘but’ or by explicit phrases that reveal that there are two or more different sides to the subject, i.e. ‘So the arguments abound.’ It is therein particularly noticeable that a list of three commencing from ‘Love your enemies’ and ending up in a climax ‘that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven’ enforces the influential power of polarization. Furthermore, the contrastive epithetonsimpractical idealist’ (l.23) and ‘ practical realist’ (l.25), the former also being a lexical repetition anaphoric to the same term in the previous line, place the moral principles of Jesus in a position rationally justified and, in the following lines, in a rank obviously critique-resistant: ‘Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.’ (l.25-28) The fact that this polarizing passage is interlocked with a parallel structure (‘far from’ in lines 24, 25), seems to care for an additional increase of emotive feelings in that it creates a similar functional effect to lexical repetition, that is, the drilling of specific content (~ the idea that Jesus was not a utopian idealist). Along the lines of these observations, the fifth paragraph is equally interconnected with the previous section by lexical repetition (e.g. command, Jesus (l.29)) and the development of the rhetorical strategy polarization of issues, which has been realized by parallel syntactic structures that are contrasted to each other (He realized that… (l.30, 31) vs. he wasn’t playing (l.29, 32)). This paragraph is particularly important for the main part of King’s speech in that it stresses the importance of ‘loving your enemies’ on the basis that Jesus was ‘serious’ about this concept and that it is a Christian’s duty to ‘discover’ (l.36) the ‘how(s)’ and ‘why(s)’ (l.36) of this ‘glorious command.’ (l.22) A desperate effort to summarize a list of rhetorical strategies as cohesive features of the rather voluminous main part of ‘Loving Your Enemies’ has resulted in the compilation of six analytical charts, of which each relates to a semantically individual section of King’s investigations of the command of Jesus. An excellent semantic overview of these parts has been composed on a website called ‘jesuswalk’ and shall provide a short insight into the contents of the speech before commenting on the most eye-catching peculiarities presented in the charts:


Excerpt out of 20 pages


The Influence of Rhetorical Strategies and Devices on Cohesion and Coherence in Loving Your Enemies
University of Graz  (Institut für Anglistik)
Linguistics Proseminar (Textlinguistics)
Sehr Gut
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
705 KB
influence, rhetorical, strategies, devices, cohesion, coherence, loving, your, enemies
Quote paper
Viktor Kocsis (Author), 2011, The Influence of Rhetorical Strategies and Devices on Cohesion and Coherence in Loving Your Enemies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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