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Analysis Of Persuasive Symbols In Ronald Reagan's The Space Shuttle "Challenger" Tragedy Address

1528 words - 7 pages

Wilbert M. Lindamood

Introduction

Politicians frequently receive negative publicity at the hand of their own use of language. Their uses of words as they relate to persuasion typically fall within one of the three dimensions of language functions, semantic or thematic. Often their persuasive language can be found to closely resemble any of these three categories simultaneously. There are many tools for analyzing persuasive symbols, many of which should be utilized when analyzing great communicators such as President Ronald Reagan. In response to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on January 28th, 1986 where seven brave American’s gave their lives. President Ronald Reagan made history with his famous speech, which didn’t only serve to address the great tragedy, but served as a focal point of comfort for the grieving nation. He commemorated the seven heroes who had fallen that morning in route to outer space; he expressed gratitude to NASA for their past developments and encouraged further explorations. Ronald Reagan was a great communicator, a charismatic persuader whose words delivered focus of the message through utilization of persuasive symbols. This paper aims not to be an all-inclusive guide for analyzing persuasive symbols, but will sufficiently guide the reader to be a more perceptive of persuasive language.

Tools for Analyzing Dimensions of Language and Persuasive Symbols

First, a brief background in the three dimensions of language discussed throughout this paper. The functional, semantic, or thematic dimensions of language as previously mentioned are often used in parallel with each other. Due, to this fact it is important to be able to identify them as they take place and differentiate between these dimensions in order to utilize the appropriate tools when analyzing persuasive symbols. The Functional Dimension of language offers action to a word or words. As defined by Larson (2010, pp. 137-138) Words can do many things. Words identify causes and effects, can motivate action, and point fingers while deflecting blame. Richard Weaver developed grammatical categories which analyze sentences and word type as a directive in analyzing the persuader’s world view. On the other hand the Semantic Dimension of language serves to give meaning to the persuasive use of language. Many words share the same meaning, but not the same idea. Analyzing the choice of words in persuasion can be very difficult; identifying the intentional use of ambiguity can help with the realization of the true meaning rather than a misinterpretation due to open ended statements. Lastly the Thematic Dimension of Language as described in Larson (2010, pp 137-138) aids the theme or tone for the persuasion by setting a mood, or a feeling. Persuaders use God, Devil, and Charismatic Terms to persuade their audience’s co-created feelings associated with these words in despite of how they may feel about the subject at hand.

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