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APPLICATION OF ELLIPSIS IN OBAM1

APPLICATION OF ELLIPSIS IN OBAMA’S SPEECHES
Group 13: Nguyễn Hồng Anh
Phạm Hoàng Anh
Chu Thị Hồng

I.

Background
1. Methodology:

1.1. Reference: 20 Obama’s speeches in universities
1. George Mason University speech
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamageorgemason.htm
2. Commencement Address at the University of Notre Dame
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamanotredamecommenceme
nt.htm
3. A New Beginning: Speech at Cairo University
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamacairouniversity.htm
4. Address to the New Economic School Graduating Class
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaneweconomicschool.htm
5. Back-to-School Speech at Wakefield High School

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamabacktoschoolspeech.htm
6. Commencement Address at the University of Michigan
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamauniversityofmichiganco
mmencement.htm
7. Address to Students at the University of Indonesia
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaindonesiauniversity.htm
8. Commencement Address at Miami Dade College
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamamiamidadecommenceme
nt.htm
9. Address on the Economy at Osawatomie High School


http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaosawatomieeconomy.ht
m
10. Address at Hankuk University
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamahankukuniversity.htm
11. Commencement Address at Barnard College
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamabarnardcollegecommenc
ement.htm
12. Address at Yangon University
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamayangonuniversity.htm
13. Morehouse College Commencement Address
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamamorehousecollegecomm
encement.htm
14. Naval Academy Commencement Address
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamanavalacademycommence
ment.htm
15. University of Cape Town Address
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamacapetownuniversity.htm
16. United States Military Academy Commencement Address
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamawestpointcommencement
2014.htm
17. U.S. Air Force Academy Commencement Address
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaairforceacademycomme
ncement.htm
18. Young leaders town hall in VN
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaYSEALIVietnam.htm
19. Young Leaders of the United Kingdom Town Hall
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamalondontownhall.htm
20. Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Town Hall Argentina


http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaYLAIArgentina.htm
1.2. Methodology:


This research was conducted by examining 20 speeches of Barack Obama. The conclusions of
these speeches were analyzed to figure out the tendency of ellipsis, the frequency of each type of
ellipsis, and the ways can be used to avoid mistakes when use ellipsis.

Speech

Ellipsis (%)

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
Average

42,1
31,6
63,3
16,7
16,7
36,4
16,7
20
25
25
26,2
15,8
8,7
14,3
20,8
22,2
4
30
15,8
10
23,1

Nominal ellipsis
(%)
10,5
21,1
42,2
0,0
0,0
32,4
0,0
2,9
10,4
12,5
0,0
3,2
2,9
9,5
6,9
16,7
0,0
3,3
5,3
0,0
7,3

2. Barack Obama and his speeches

Verbal ellipsis
(%)
5,3
0,0
0,0
8,4
12,5
0,0
8,4
8,6
11,1
12,5
0,0
0,0
0,0
0,0
0,0
0,0
0,0
6,7
0,0
3,3
4,4

Clausal ellipsis
(%)
26,3
10,5
21,1
8,4
4,2
4,0
8,4
8,6
2,8
0,0
2,6
12,6
5,8
4,8
13,9
5,6
0,4
20,0
10,5
6,7
11,5


2.1. Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II is an American politician who served as the 44th President of the
United States from 2009 to 2017. He is the first African American to have served as president.
Obama is remembered to be one of the greatest speakers of all time. He knows exactly what to
say to make his audience trust him. He has the ability to use words that cut to the quick in a way
that every person feels deeply. His artful use of metaphors speaks for itself.
2.2. Speech:

- Definition:
* a form of communication in spoken language, made by a speaker
before an audience for a given purpose => focus on this defin
* The expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds.
* A formal address or discourse delivered to an audience.
(Oxford dictionary)

-

Obama’s speeches:

During his eight-year career, Obama had made hundreds of speeches aiming at many kinds of
audience such as politicians, parliamentarians, and citizens. Among of those, he spent time
visiting school, colleges, and universities all around the world and made eloquent speeches to
these students. Those speeches were not too formal, but they were like a talk, a confidence, an
advice, and an encouragement. It is considered that he spent great concern about the educational
issues and about the new generation.
3.

Ellipsis:
-

Definition:

Ellipsis happens when we leave out (in other words, when we don’t use) items which we would
normally expect to use in a sentence if we followed the grammatical rules.
(Cambridge dictionary)
The items left out are in brackets [ ]:
Ex: - In difficult economic times, a lot of fathers are worried about whether they’re going to be
able to keep their job, or [whether they’re going to be able] find a job,….
(Barack Obama, Father’s Day Address, 21 June 2010)
-

These apples are delicious. Let’s by some


-

What are they doing? - (They are) Reading.

Feature:
- Ellipsis, a cohesive device, is a universal linguistic phenomenon which is generally employed
without any real awareness of how it is structured by the language users. A relation of cohesion is
established where the interpretation of some element presupposes, and is dependent on another,
so creating a tie and integrating the two elements into a text
(Halliday, M. A. K. An introduction to functional grammar. London: Edward Arnold, 1994)
- "Ellipsis is most commonly used to avoid repetition, and in this respect it is like substitution."
(Quirk and Greenbaum, A concise grammar of contemporary English, Harcourt, Brace,
Javanovich, Pubs. 1973: 261)

I.

Theory
1.Types (syntactic function):

Deictic as Head

Nominal ellipsis

Numeral as Head

Epithets as Head

Lexical ellipsis
Ellipsis

Verbal ellipsis
Operator ellipsis

Modal & propositional

Clausal ellipsis

No ellipsis of single elements

Ellipsis in Q&A


1.1. Nominal Ellipsis
• Definition: Nominal ellipsis means the ellipsis within the nominal group or the
common noun that may be omitted and the function of head taken on by one of
other elements (deictic, nominative, epithet or classifier).
• Structure of nominal group:
(Pre-modifiers) + Head + (Post-modifiers)
Ex: Those two fast electric trains with pantographs
Pre-modifier
Head Post-modifier
The modifier can be deictic, nominative, epithet or classifier.
- The deictic is normally a determiner.
- The nominative is a numeral or other quantifier.
- The epithet is an adjective.
- the classifier is a noun.
• Types
1. Deictic as Head:
1.1.
Specific deictic:
The specific deictic are demonstrative, possessive and the.
- The demonstratives are this, that, these, those, and which.
- Possessives include both noun (Smith’s, my father’s, etc.), attributes (my,
your, etc.), and nominal (mine, yours, etc.).
For example: (a) Take these pills three times daily. And you’d better have some more
of those too.
Pills, functioning as head, is omitted and is replaced by demonstrative modifier those.
The full form of the sentence is “Take these pills three times daily. And you’d better
have some more of those pills too”.
1.2.
Non-specific deictic:
The non-specific deictic are each, every, any, either, no, neither, a and some as well
as both.
For example:
(a) Smith and Jones are on Holiday. I wonder if either has left an address.
(the word Smith and Jones are omitted and replaced by either)
The full form: Smith and Jones are on holiday. I wonder if either Smith or Jones has
left an address.
(b) These apples are delicious. Let’s by some.
(the phrase these apples is omitted and replaced by the word some)
The full form: These apples are delicious. Let’s buy some apples.
1.3.
Post-deictic:
The word functioning as post-deictic elements in the nominal group are adjectives.
The frequent adjectives used in deictic function include other, same, different,
identical, usual, regular, certain, odd, famous, well-known, typical, obvious.
They combine with the, a or other determiner; and they may be followed by a
numeral, unlike adjectives in their normal function as epithet.
Deictic
Epithet
The identical three questions
three identical questions
The usual two comments
two usual comments


For example:
- I’ve used up these three yellow folders you gave me. Can I use the other?
The elliptical nominal group is signed by combination post-deictic other and specific
deictic the. The full form of the sentence is “I’ve used up these three yellow folder
you gave me. Can I use the other three yellow folders?”
- I’ll have the same.
(Same function as Head)
2. Numeral as Head
2.1.
Ordinal numeral
The ordinal numerals are first, next, last, second, third, fourth, etc.
They are often used elliptically, generally with the or a possessive as deictic.
For example:
Have another chocolate.
– No, thanks; that was my third.
The nominal elliptical group my third is specific deictic of possessive pronoun my and
ordinal third.
The full form of the sentence becomes
Have another chocolate.
– No, thanks. That was my third chocolate.
2.2.
Cardinal Numeral
Cardinal numerals are also frequent in ellipsis, and may be preceded by any deictic
and also by post deictic adjectives such as the usual three, the same three.
For example
Have another chocolate.
– No, thanks; I’ve had my three.
The nominal elliptical group my three is specific deictic possessive my and cardinal
numeral three.
The full form of the sentence is
Have another chocolate.
– No, thanks. I’ve had my three chocolate.
2.3.
Indefinite Quantifiers
The indefinite quantifiers are items such as much, many, most, few, several, a little,
lots, a bit, hundreds, etc.
For example:
Can all cats climb trees? – they all can; and most do.
the indefinite quantifier, most, presupposes cats.
3. Epithet as Head

The function of epithet is typically fulfilled by an adjective.
3.1.
Color adjectives:
Ex: Green suits you very well.
3.2.
Opposites
Ex: I like strong tea. I suppose weak is better for you.
3.3.
Superlative


The superlative adjective precedes other Epithets and is usually accompanied by the
or a possessive Deictic.
For example: Apples are the cheapest in autumn.
The cheapest is an elliptical nominal group presupposing some item such as fruit.
3.4.
Comparative
Ex: (a) Mary is the cleverer.
(b) Mary is cleverer
(a) is comparative ellipsis since it is presupposing by reference whereas (b) is not
elliptical comparative.

1.2. Verbal ellipsis

1. Definition (VE refers to E within the verbal group)
VE defines as a verbal group whose structure does not fully express it systemic features.
Ex:
Have you been to London?
- Yes, I have (been to London).
2. Types of VE
2 types: - Lexical E
- Operation E
a. Lexical E
Definition: LE is type of E in which the lexical verb is missing from the verbal group.
Ex: She

can

sing

modal

and her sister can (sing) too.

lexical

Do you like milk-tea? - Yes, I do (like milk-tea).
primary

lexical

* E of Lexical V only
Ex: She can sing and her sister can (sing) too.
lexical V


* E of Lexical V/ V phrase + subject complement
Ex: Mary is the best student at Maths, and Linda (is the best student) at Physics.
lexical V

S complement

* Lexical V/ V phrase + direct object
Ex: Nam is reading books in the living-room, and Nga (is reading books) in her room.
V-phrase

Note: Primary auxiliaries (be, have, do) can be elliptical and substitutes.
Ex:


Did Jane know? - No, but Mary did.
knew (substitution)



Did Jane know? - Yes, she did.
auxiliary

b. Operator E
- Involves only the omission of operators
- Lexical V remains intact
Ex: - Some were laughing but some (were) crying.
- What are they doing? - (They are) Reading.
* E of subject and auxiliaries:
Ex: He is reading books and (he is) eating at the same time.
* E of auxiliary only
Ex: Some were laughing but some (were) crying.
Peter should study Math and Peter (should) study Physics.

direct Object


1.3. Clausal ellipsis
1. Definition
Clausal ellipsis represents the obmission of a part of the clause or all of it. Such ellipsis is often
associated with questions and responses in dialogues. It is similar to verbal ellipsis except that
clausal ellipsis is external to verb itself, effecting other elements in the structure of the clause.
2. Types:
1.1. Modal and propositional:
The clause has two part structure including MODAL and PROPOSITION:
a) Modal ellipsis
-The modal element consists of the subject plus the finite element in the verbal group
-Response to a WH_question (What did/dose/do)
Ex: What was the Duke going to do? – (The Duke was going to ) plant a row of poplars in the
park.
b) Propositional ellipsis
-The propositional element consist of: the remainder of the verbal group, and any complements
or adjuncts that may be present
-Response to statements or YES/NO questions
Ex: The plane has landed. -> Has it (landed)?
Has the plane landed? -> It has (landed)?
1.2No elipsis of single elements
Ex: Has she taken her medicine?
In this case, we must reply with a full clause: “She has taken her medicine”
Or we must omit both “her medicine” and “taken” “ She has”
Or use substitution “do”: She has done.
1.3Elipsis in Q&A
a) Yes/No question ellipsis


Answer to yes/ no questions or polar questions are very simply dealt with the instruction to
answer yes or no
Ex: Are you coming -> Yes (I am)
b) WH questions ellipsis
Ex: When did John arrive? -> Yesterday.
2. Analyze:
1. George Mason University speech
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamageorgemason.htm
We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any (crisis) we have seen in our lifetime, a crisis that
has only deepened over the last few weeks. Nearly two million jobs have been now lost. And on
Friday, we're likely to learn that we lost more jobs last year than (we lost jobs) at any time since
World War II. Just in the past year, another 2.8 million Americans who want and (who) need fulltime work have had to settle for part-time jobs. Manufacturing has hit a 28-year low. Many
businesses cannot borrow or (many businesses cannot) make payroll. Many families cannot pay
their bills or (many ...cannot pay) their mortgage. Many workers are watching their life savings
disappear. And many, many Americans are both anxious and uncertain of what the future will
hold.
Now, I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be (too late) if we don't take
dramatic action as soon as possible. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years. The
unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall 1 trillion dollars short of
its full capacity, which translates into more than 12,000 dollars in lost income for a family of
four (people). We could lose a generation of potential and promise as more young Americans are
forced to forego dreams of college or the chance to train for the jobs of the future. And our nation
could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and (the
competitive edge...foundation for) our standing in the world. In short, a bad situation could
become dramatically worse.
This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business
cycle. And we won't get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come or relying on the
worn-out dogmas of the past. We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility
that stretched from corporate board rooms to the halls of power in Washington, D.C.
Nominal ellipsis = 10,5%

Verbal ellipsis = 5,3%

2. Commencement Address at the University of Notre Dame

Clausal ellipsis = 26,3%


http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamanotredamecommenceme
nt.htm
Now, every one of you should be proud of what you've achieved at this institution. One hundred
and sixty-three classes of Notre Dame graduates have sat where you sit today. Some (people)
were here during years that simply rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare -- periods
of relative peace and prosperity that required little by way of sacrifice or struggle.
You, however, are not getting off that easy. You have a different deal. Your class has come of age
at a moment of great consequence for our nation and for the world -- a rare inflection point in
history where the size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake our world to
renew its promise, that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new
age. It's a privilege and (it’s) a responsibility afforded to few generations – and (it’s) a task that
you're now called to fulfill.
This generation, your generation is the one (generation) that must find a path back to prosperity
and (that must) decide how we respond to a global economy that left millions behind even before
the most recent crisis hit -- an economy where greed (thinking) and short-term thinking were too
often rewarded at the expense of fairness, and diligence, and an honest day's work.
Your generation -- Your generation must decide how to save God's creation from a changing
climate that threatens to destroy it. Your generation must seek peace at a time when there are
those (people) who will stop at nothing to do us harm, and when weapons in the hands of a few
(people) can destroy the many (people). And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking
world with its ever-growing diversity -- diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of
belief.
In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family. And -- And it's this last
challenge that I'd like to talk about today, despite the fact that Father John stole all my best lines.
For the major threats we face in the 21st century -- whether it's global recession or (it’s) violent
extremism, the spread of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease -- these things do not
discriminate. They do not recognize borders. They do not see color. They do not target specific
ethnic groups. Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone.
Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and (Our very survival has never
required) greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.
Nominal ellipsis = 21,1%

Verbal ellipsis = 0%

Clausal ellipsis = 10,5%

8. Commencement Address at Miami Dade College
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamamiamidadecommenceme
nt.htm


When waves of Irish and Italian immigrants were derided as criminals and (When waves of Irish
and Italian immigrants were derided as) outcasts; when Catholics were discriminated against, or
Jews had to succumb to quotas, or Muslims were blamed for society’s ills; when blacks were
treated as second-class citizens and marriages like my own parents’ were illegal in much of the
country -- we didn’t stop. We didn’t accept inequality. We fought. We overcame. We carried the
dream forward.
We have carried this dream forward through times when our politics seemed broken. This is not
the first time where it looked like politicians were going crazy. In heated debates over our
founding, some warned independence would doom America to “a scene of bloody discord and
desolation for ages.” That was the warning about independence. One of our greatest Presidents,
Thomas Jefferson, was labeled an “infidel” and (Thomas Jefferson was labeled) a “howling
atheist” with “fangs.” Think about that. Even I haven’t gotten that one yet. Lincoln -- Lincoln,
FDR, they were both vilified in their own times as tyrants, power hungry, bent on destroying
democracy. And of course, this state has seen its fair share of tightly contested elections.
And we’ve made it through those moments. None of it was easy. A lot of it was
messy. Sometimes there was violence. Sometimes it took years, even decades, for us to find our
way through. But here’s the thing. We made it through. We made it through because in each of
those moments, we made a choice.
Rather than turn inward and wall off America from the rest of the world, we’ve chosen to stand
up forcefully for the ideals and the rights we believe are universal for all men and women.
Rather than settle for an America where everybody is left to fend for themselves, where we think
only about our own short-term needs instead of the country that we’re leaving to our children, we
have chosen to build a nation where everybody has a shot at opportunity, where everyone can
succeed. We’ve chosen to invest in our people and (We’ve chosen to invest) in their future -building public schools, sending a generation to college on the GI Bill, laying highways and
railroads, building ports all across the country.
Rather than turn on each other in times of cultural upheaval, we’ve chosen to march, to organize,
to sit-in, to turn out, to petition our government for women’s rights and voting rights and civil
rights -- even in the face of fierce resistance -- because we are Americans; and no matter who we
are or what we look like, we believe that in this country, all are equal, all are free.
Rather than (we) give in to the voices suggesting we set our sights lower, (we) downsize our
dreams, or (we) settle for something less, we’ve chosen again and again to make America bigger,
bolder, more diverse, more generous, more hopeful.
Nominal ellipsis = 2,9%

Verbal ellipsis = 8,6%

Clausal ellipsis = 8,6%

18. Young leaders town hall in VN
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamaYSEALIVietnam.htm


Now, as President, a key part of my foreign policy is to deepen our ties with countries and that
peoples of Southeast Asia. And we’ve done that. We've deepened the ties with our allies and
(We've deepened the ties with) our partners. We’ve engaged more with institutions like ASEAN.
We’re pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership to grow our economies and (We’re pursuing the
Trans-Pacific Partnership) to support jobs in our countries. Together, we’re promoting peace and
encouraging sustainable development. We're protecting our environment, and (we’re) trying to
meet shared challenges like climate change.
But government and businesses are only part of the equation. If we’re going to meet all of these
challenges, we also have to build strong relationships between our people, and especially
between young people like you and young people in other ASEAN countries.
Keep in mind that here in Vietnam, two-thirds of you were born after 1975. As I often say to
young Americans back home, your generation can look at the world with fresh eyes, without
some of the old notions, the old habits of a previous generation. And that gives you the
perspective and (that gives you) the power not just to help to grow Vietnam, but also (that gives
you the perspective and the power) to help shape the world.
Thanks to technology and social media, you’re the most connected generation in history. I see it
in my daughters, who are always on the phone, and they have to teach me how to use the phone.
More than 30 million people in Vietnam -- one-third of the population -- are on Facebook -- just
on Facebook. You’re posting selfies -- I know. I was in the gym this morning, people were
trying to take selfies. You're streaming the latest Son Tung MTP hit. But you're also
exchanging ideas and (you’re) learning from each other.
And so this gives you tremendous power. And we need your passion and energy and talents to
tackle some of our biggest global challenges -- whether it's reducing poverty, (it’s) advancing
equality for women and girls, (it’s) fighting climate change.
Nominal ellipsis = 3,3%

Verbal ellipsis = 6,7%

Clausal ellipsis = 20%

4. Conclusion:

According to the statistics found, the frequency of Obama's using E in his
speeches is not high (about 23%) which showed that he has tendency to speak as
clear as possible. However, the use of E is unavoidable because it helped his
address be not repetitive, but made it more cohesive. Namely, he used 7% of
Nominal E, 4% of Verbal E, 12% of Clausal E.




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