The language of the speech “A House Divided” by Abraham Lincoln is formal and generally typical of political speeches in the 19th century, but it is also filled with irony. Many phrases sound old-fashioned today, as the speech was made over 150 years ago. One example is the phrase “whither we are tending” which means “where we are heading”. You should also note that the word “Negro” is considered offensive today, but was commonly used in the 19th century to describe African Ameri…


Choice of words

The choice of words reflects the political nature of the speech. Because the speaker describes legislative and political developments of the time in detail,  the speech can be very difficult to understand if readers are not familiar with the context: “piece of machinery, so to speak – compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision.” ;  “repealing that congressional prohibition” , “sacred right of self-government” , etc.

The speaker uses both words with positive meaning and words with negative meaning. However, there are not many descriptive adjectives in his speech, as Lincoln is more concerned with presenting facts that …


Sentence structure

The speaker uses a combination of long and short sentences to maintain his audience’s attention. Short sentences typically deliver a conclusion or introduce an argument: “The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured.” ; “That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine.”.

His longer sentences might sound strange to the modern reader, as he often uses old-fashioned rhetoric and complex sentence structures:

Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how…

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