The oratorical style is the oral subdivision of the publicistic style. The most obvious purpose of oratory is persuasion, and it requires eloquence. This style is evident in speeches on political and social problems of the day, in orations and addresses on solemn occasions as public weddings, funerals and jubilees, in sermons and debates and also in the speeches of counsel and judges in courts of law.
The sphere of application of oratory is confined to appeal to an audience and therefore crucial issues in such spheres as science, art, or business relations are not touched upon.
Direct contact with the listeners permits the combination of the syntactical, lexical and phonetic peculiarities of both the written and spoken varieties of language. In its leading feature, however, the oratorical style belongs to the written variety of language, though it is modified by the oral form of the utterance and the use of gestures.
Certain typical features of the spoken variety of speech present in this style are:
a) direct address to the audience by special formulas (Ladies and Gentlemen!; My Lords!- Mr. Chairman!; Honorable Members!; Highly esteemed members of the conference!; or, in less formal situation, Dear Friends!; or, with a more passionate coloring, My Friends!). Expressions of direct address can be repeated in the course of the speech and may be expressed differently (Mark you! Mind!).
b) Special formulas at the end of the speech to thank the audience for their attention ( Thankyou very much; Thank you for your time).
c) the use of the 1st person pronoun we; 2nd person pronoun you: We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness .
d) The use of contractions I’ll; won’t; haven’t; isn’t and others: We’re talking about healing our nation. We’re not talking about politics. We’re all here to do everything in our power to save lives; I’m here to thank you for hearing that call. Actually, I shouldn’t be thanking you, I should be thanking a Higher Power for giving you the call..
e) Features of colloquial style such as asking the audience questions as the speaker attempts to reach closer contact: Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?, or calling upon the audience: Let us then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and republican principles (ibid).
Like the colloquial style, oratory is usually characterized by emotional coloring and connotations, but there is a difference. The emotional coloring of the publicist style is lofty; it may be solemn, or ironic, but it cannot have the lowered connotations (jocular, rude, vulgar, or slangy) found in colloquial speech. The vocabulary of speeches is usually elaborately chosen and remains mainly in the sphere of high-flown style
The stylistic devices employed in the oratorical style are determined by the conditions of communication. If the desire of the speaker is to rouse the audience and to keep it in suspense, he will use various traditional stylistic devices. Stylistic devices are closely interwoven and mutually complementary thus building up an intricate pattern. For example, an antithesis is framed by parallel constructions, which, in their turn, are accompanied by repetition, while a climax can be formed by repetitions of different kinds.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate; we cannot consecrate; we cannot hallow this ground. . It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
As the audience rely only on memory, the speaker often resorts to repetition to enable his listeners to follow him and retain the main points of the speech. Repetition is also resorted to in order to persuade the audience, to add weight to the speaker’s opinion. The following extract from the speech of the American Confederate general, A.P. Hill, on the ending of the Civil War in the U.S.A. is an example of anaphoric repetition:
It is high time this people had recovered from the passions of war. It is high time that counsel were taken from statesmen, not demagogues: It is high time the people of the North and South understood each other and adopted means to inspire confidence in each other.
A mere repetition of the same idea and in the same linguistic form may bore the audience and destroy the speaker-audience contact, therefore synonymous phrase repetition is used instead, thus filling up the speech with details and embellishing it, as in this excerpt from a speech on Robert Burns:
For Burns exalted our race, he hallowed Scotland and the Scottish tongue. Before his time we had for a long period been scarcely recognized; we had been falling out of recollection of the world. From the time of the Union of the Crowns, and still more from the legislative union, Scotland had lapsed into obscurity. Except for an occasional riot, or a Jacobite rising, her existence was almost forgotten. (All those different phrases simply repeat the idea that nobody knew us, Scots, before).
Repetition can be regarded as the most typical stylistic device of the English oratorical style. Almost any piece of oratory will have parallel constructions, antithesis, climax, rhetorical questions and questions-in-the-narrative. It will be no exaggeration to say that almost all typical syntactical devices can be found in English oratory. Questions are most frequent because they promote closer contact with the audience. The change of intonation breaks the monotony of the intonation pattern and revives the attention of the listeners:
No? You don’t want to leave the U.N. to the Europeans and Russians? Then let’s stop bellyaching about the U.N., and manipulating our dues, and start taking it seriously for what it is a global forum that spends 95 percent of its energy endorsing the wars and peacekeeping missions that the U.S. wants endorsed, or taking on the thankless humanitarian missions that the U.S. would like done but doesn’t want to do itself. The U.N. actually spends only 5 percent of its time annoying the U.S. Not a bad deal!
The desire of the speaker to convince and to rouse his audience results in the use of simile and metaphor, but these are generally traditional ones, as fresh and genuine stylistic devices may divert the attention of the listeners away from the main point of the speech. Besides, unexpected and original images are more difficult to grasp and the process takes time.
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4. R. Fowler. The new stylistics. Oxford, 1975
5. L. Milic. Style and Stylistics. New York, 1967.