This research studied the language of persuasion of inaugural speeches in Nigeria to find out their use of rhetorical appeals. It investigated certain linguistic features in the speeches that were employed to appeal to the sense of emotion of the listeners, to ethics (speaker’s credibility) and logic alongside the use of unethical or illogical appeals to persuade the listeners. The three variables of ethos, pathos and logos of the aristotelean model of rhetoric were used to analyse 75 sentences (37 and 38 sentences respectively) which were selected from the inaugural speeches of two democratically elected presidents (Goodluck Jonathan of 2011 and Mohammed Buhari of 2015). In carrying out the research, the text of the speeches served as the data and sentences that reflected the appeals and fallacies were selected. The research found that the linguistic features of inaugurals are consciously formed to persuade the listeners. Political leaders employ these lexical choices to thank and acknowledge, express their will, aims and objectives, show their capacity to lead and rebuild, show they understand the problems and promise a better future. In trying to persuade the listeners, they commit some fallacies which may be persuasive but illogical or unethical. Of the three rhetorical appeals, the emotional appeal was the most employed in persuasion.
Background to the Study
The study of language is captivating due to the role it plays in capturing all aspects of human thoughts and endeavours. Language playsso many roles in our society among which is the forming of social psychology with regard to how attitudes and perceptions are expressed (Yule, 254). Adedimeji also adds that, ‘language mainly serves to form (or deform), inform, reform and transform man and his society’ (6). Boltz and Seyler (n. pag.) argue that words are the tools for saying what you want to say and what you want to say are your thoughts, feelings, dislikes, hopes, fears, business, pleasure, everything that makes you up. Whether in politics, media, administration, teaching and even daily conversations, we use language to achieve the aforementioned goals.