Composition

Introduction

The importance of analyzing a speech’s composition or structure may vary depending on the speech, but it is usually a good idea to at least form an overview of the general structure. It is generally easier to do this if you have access to a transcript of the speech. 

The title of the speech

As a general rule, the title of a speech is only analytically relevant if it was title deliberately chosen by the speaker to communicate the contents of the speech or present its intention. Many speeches do not have titles like this, but instead simply get a title ‘after the fact’ as a practical label when news media need to refer to it.

For example, “Theresa May’s Lancaster House Speech” is not an analytically interesting title, because the speaker did not choose it and it does not communicate anything about the rhetorical content of the speech.

On the other hand, in the title for a TED talk such as “When technology can read minds, how will we protect our privacy”, the speaker has made an effort to create a title that sparks curiosity and encourages the audience to reflect on the topic, so in this case it could become an interesting element in the analysis.

Also note that some famous historical speeches end up being known under unofficial titles, usually because a central quotation from the speech has become famous. The best-known example of this is probably Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech, which has become widely known as “I Have a Dream”. But once again, it is important to note that these titles typically were not chosen by the speaker, and therefore may not be particularly interesting to con...

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