Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 4 April 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.



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The Metaphor: A Rhetorical Tool in Some Selected Speeches of
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kwame Nkrumah

Eric Opoku Mensah, B.A.(Hons), M.Phil.


The metaphor, together with other rhetorical figures, was first identified and discussed over two thousand years ago in classical antiquity (Todorov, 1982) and has been effectively used by politicians and has thus become the subject of rhetorical studies in modern times.

It is a prominent tool in the political discourse of King and Nkrumah who have been considered as great speakers of their time. Taking a qualitative approach, the study examines the place of metaphor in the political discourse of these two speakers.

In particular, this paper is informed by the following questions: What role does metaphor play in the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. and Kwame Nkrumah? Are there some major similarities and differences in their use of the metaphor in their political discourse? Is there a relationship between their backgrounds and their choice of metaphors?

The paper is based on Lakoff's theory of metaphor (1980) which places metaphor at the centre of human cognition.

The results of the analysis indicated that, first, both speakers use metaphors to paint the debilitating conditions of their people. Secondly, while King employs a lot of non violent metaphors to demonstrate his nonviolent movement, Nkrumah uses a number of militant metaphors to emphasize his sense of urgency for Africa's decolonization. Thirdly, King uses religious metaphors to identify himself with his audience whilst Nkrumah uses a number of secular metaphors which reflect his socialist worldview.

This study therefore has implication for Lakoff's theory which underscores the metaphor as an underlying factor in human cognitive process. It further shows that metaphor, regardless of the sociocultural contexts in which they are used contributes to the effectiveness of political discourse.

Key words: Metaphor, Rhetoric, Cognition, Domains, Speeches


President Nkrumah
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The metaphor, together with other rhetorical figures, was first identified and discussed over two thousand years ago in classical antiquity (Todorov, 1982). Since this period, rhetorical scholars have been concerned with how to employ the most effective ways to use rhetorical figures (schemes and tropes) for effective communication. The metaphor has become a quintessential tool not only in the area of language research but scientific discovery, design, mathematics and psychology and in computing (Fauconnier & Turner, 2008) and more importantly in rhetorical discourse. In this paper, I argue that the metaphor, an important tropic tool, is a dominant and prominent rhetorical tool in the political speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr and Kwame Nkrumah.

President Nkrumah
President Kwame Nkrumah

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Eric Opoku Mensah, B.A.(Hons), M.Phil.
Department of Communication Studies
Faculty of Arts
University of Cape Coast
Cape Coast

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