Language

The language used by Nelson Mandela in “I Am Prepared to Die” is formal and complex, resembling a lawyer’s opening statement. This is understandable considering the speaker was a lawyer and delivered the speech during his defence tri…

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Choice of words

The choice of words adds to the formality of the speech, suggesting that the speaker carefully prepared his address in advance. It also reveals that the topics of the speech concern the speaker’s activities as an activist for South African Rights.

As the speaker’s main aim is to reject many of the accusations brought against him and to continue to support the cause of racial equality, he uses many negative words to describe the government’s actions against non-white South Africans. Here are some notable examples: “bitterness and hostility”, “imprisonment and whipping”, “unremitting toil”, “abject surrender”, “repressive legislation”, “disturbing ideas of terrorism” , “indiscriminate slaughter”, “hollow gesture”, “extreme poverty”, etc.

Such words are meant to rouse feelings of sympathy for black South Africans and to reject the actions of the authorities.

Occasionally, the speaker uses words that generate positive images, which usually describe his ideals of racial equality in South Africa: “peaceful demonstration” , “non-violence and racial harmony”, “great deal of e…

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Sentence structure

Nelson Mandela combines sentences of different length in his speech to maintain his audience’s attention throughout the almost four hours it took him to deliver the speech.

However, medium-length and long sentences dominate the speech because the speaker’s aim is to give detailed accounts and explanations that support his arguments: “But the hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights.”

Sometimes the speaker uses fragmentation to introduce additional details, to give examples, or to emphasise a point: “Whenever we had a special campaign or an important political case - for example, the Treason Trial - we received financ…

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