Figures of Speech

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The column on Political oratory evoked very good response from readers : many, embarrassingly laudatory, one or two scathingly critical.

I have addressed the points raised by the latter in the column dated June 15, 2009.

Some readers want to know where they could read great speeches. Unfortunately such collections are mostly by western editors. Very few, if any, speeches by Indians find a place in such collections.

One of the most comprehensive collections is by William Saffire who writes the column
On Language in the New York Times Magazine. Surprisingly Saffire's column is not on language as such but on English. Anyway the title of the book is : Lend me Your Ears : Great speeches in History (1997) .

Another more recent collection is :
Speeches That Changed the World - the stories and transcripts of the moments that made history : Smith-Davies publishing Ltd, London 2005.

You will get a feel for the language of oratory if you read these speeches. The sentence structure will be markedly different from that of ordinary prose. To get an idea of the rhetorical flourishes you should consult a good book on
Rhetoric or on Figures of Speech.

School grammars (Wren and Martin) have a section on
figures of speech. But they deal only with a few important ones in a scrappy way. A very full treatment of Figures of Speech with an original analysis and classification can be found in my book : Structure, Style and Usage : Oxford University Press : Delhi 2005.

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