How does Malala Yousafzai adapt the features and functions of spoken language to achieve specific outcomes in different outcomes?
On 12th July 2013 Malala Yousafzai gave her United Nations speech on her sixteenth birthday. Throughout the speech Yousafzai displays many paralinguistic and prosodic features associated with formal situations, for example she is standing on a rostrum in the center of the room facing the audience with a row behind and on the side of her, she is standing up straight which creates a sense of ceremony and officialism. Also she greets many people in the beginning of her speech while looking at them, making them feel special and with that she creates rapport with them. In the first part of the speech she addresses all those who have fought for education, peace, and equality, then, she announces all she wants to speak up for, like, children’s education, to be more specific, girls education, and gender division inequalities.
The second and third sections she uses personal anecdotes that explain what has happened to herself and she references other campaigners for human rights. The final section includes her calling upon various institutions/nations/individual people to reject oppression and prejudice to gain freedom and equality. During the Jon Stewart show Yousafzai and stewart display many prosodic and paralinguistic features related to an informal situation, for example Yousafzai asks rhetorical questions and both of them use humour and a faster pace. During the show both yousafzai and stewart are sitting down facing each other and Stewart is leaning towards Yousafzai making him seem interested in what she is saying and with that he creates a rapport with her. Yousafzai uses many more fillers and backtracks a lot as it is not a rehearsed script and she is speaking a different language to her first.
The Jon Stewart show starts on a serious note as they start their conversation with when she was targeted by the Taliban, to which she replies with an elongated answer which is effective because if it is broken up into other questions, each situation will seem less than it is, whereas if she includes it all in one answer it is overwhelming for the audience and hits them with more gravity than it would have. Jon Stewart is also affected by her answer that he shows through his body language, he rocks back as if to get a better look at her and blows out very slowly which lead us to believe he is on awe of her, furthermore when he puts his hands over his mouth in shock.
As the interview progresses Yousafzai uses long sentences to get her point across and once again overwhelms the audience but introduces humor on the middle of her answer by saying “Malala, just take a shoe and hit him” she is referring to what would happen if she saw a talib and he was going to kill her, this is humorous but also reminds us of her innocence and manipulates our emotions in her favor. Stewart uses humor to lighten the mood and end the interview on a positive note by asking, “You know…I know your father is backstage and he’s very proud of you, but would he be mad, if I adopted you?” this builds a strong rapport with Malala and encourages back channeling form the audience when he looks to them and laughs.
Contrasting, in her U.N. speech Yousafzai structures her speech into four different sections, which I have mentioned in the introduction, she also starts off her speech stating things she wants to accomplish and what others can do to help here but the further she goes into her speech the more inclusive it becomes; she starts saying this is what we have to do, rather than isolating herself from the audience she now builds a relationship with them. She also repeats the phrase; “Dear brothers and sisters” this again builds a rapport with the audience, however, by the end of the speech she is saying “Dear sisters and brothers” therefore creating gender equality in her speech and challenging society’s structure of listing genders.
For this speech Malala wished to establish herself not as a victim of violence, but as a champion against it, for example “….it is an honor for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto.”This is a familiar reference to a female Pakistani leader, a champion of education, who was assassinated by terrorists. Furthermore, Benazir Bhutto had also spoken at the UN, and would have been known by many of those in the audience, thus creating a rapport with them. A similar summon of power appears later, in a tri colon: “This is the compassion that I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ, and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa” To speak in groupings of three is a classical technique, and as Malala delivers this roll-call, she summons the presence of those leaders, alive and dead, to stand behind her on the stage, this is also many familiar references for the audience and helps build a stronger rapport with them. Malala then drops the power level, as she summons the presence of two more individuals: “And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my mother and father.” Mentioning her parents helps remind us she is still a little girl, doing her GCSE’s and not a world leader, it reminds us of her innocence and makes her speech even more powerful. This pattern of power-build followed by drop-back to humility reappears in the fourth paragraph.
Malala uses the technique of climax, where numbers are grouped so that they climb in a sequence from small to large: “There are hundreds of human rights activists,…. thousands of people have been killed by terrorists and millions have been injured.” Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. This rise leads the audience to see an ever larger and more horrifying amount. The next number we hear is one, she singles her self out therefore making her seem alone and isolated and by this manipulating our emotions in her favor. “I am just one of them. So here I stand, one girl amongst many.” This is anti-climax. Having built up an image of afflicted millions, Malala collapses it all back down, to just her, one child.
Malala then uses contrast to make each point seem more powerful; “Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.” Light and darkness. Voice and silence. These paired opposites are examples of contrast. Malala then uses this foundation to create an analogy: “we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. “The wise saying, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. It is true. The extremists are afraid of pens and books. The power of education frightens them.” Here, the well known commonplace “The pen is mightier than the sword” is used to move the argument to it’s next stage: Extremists are afraid of education. “They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.
This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day, because they are afraid of change and the equality that we will bring to our society.” Having earlier set the argument that extremists are afraid of education, Malala then builds that argument to demonstrate the link between women’s education and society, until she concludes her argument with an anecdote: “And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist: ‘Why are the Taliban against education?’ He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said: ‘A Talib doesn’t know what it written inside this book.’” The anecdote provides a dramatic punchline, but also hints that the illiterate are more likely to become Taliban. If Talibs can’t read, then the ultimate sword with which to win the war against the future Talib, is to teach the children to read. Referring to how the Taliban sought to silence and intimidate her, Malala uses antithesis to deliver the words: “….weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.” Strength, power and courage in the face of adversity are the key messages of Malala’s speech.
In conclusion, Yousafzai manages to use a range of speaking tecniques to manipulate our emotions in her favour while still delivering her message making both dialogues powerful and effective. She uses body language to convey the formality and her emotions, her pace to add power and strength to her words and contrast to make each point seem more important and dominant than the last. She uses quotations and personal anecdotes to include us in her experience, repetition to make her point and morality to show her maturity and manipulate our emotions. Overall her speech is filled with strength, power and courage in the face of adversity.
Courtney from Study Moose
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