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An Analysis of Morphological Elements in Bush’s Speeches


An Analysis of Morphological Elements in Bush’s Speeches

تحليل العناصر المورفولوجيّة في خطابات بوش

 Dr May Matta[1] أ ـ د ـ ماي سمير متّى

ملخص البحث

تناول هذا البحث تحليلاً لبعض العناصر المورفولوجية في خطابين سياسيين قدمهما الرئيس الأميريكي الأسبق جورج بوش في عامي 2002 و2003. وكان الهدف من الدراسة هو إبراز عناصر المورفولوجية المتكررة التي يستخدمها المتحدث وتتبّع تأثيرها على جمهوره. علاوة على ذلك، أدّت قلّة الدراسات التي من  شأنها أن تقدّم تحليلا مفصلا للعناصر المورفولوجية وتأثيرها على الخطابات السياسية إلى تسليط الضوء على آثار العناصر المورفولوجية الحيادية، الإيجابية، أو السلبية في الخطابات. اعتمدت المنهجية المتّبعة في الدراسة على طريقتين: الكمية والنوعية واستخدمت أيضًا برنامجConcordance . قامت الباحثة بتحليل البيانات التي أدت إلى النتائج التالية: الاستخدام المتكرر لبعض المورفيمات المقيدة والمورفيمات الحرة  كشف بشكل مباشر عن نية المتحدث وتوقعه التأثير الإيجابي للحرب.

الكلمات الرئيسية: العناصر المورفولوجية، المورفيمات المقيدة، والمورفيمات الحرة.


The paper examined an analysis of some morphological elements in 2 political speeches presented by the American President, George W. Bush in 2002 and 2003. The aim of the study was to manipulate the recurrent morphemes used by the speaker and trace their impact on delivering his intended message. Further, the scarcity of studies that would give a detailed analysis of morphological elements and their influences on political speeches led to a conspicuous gap concerning any studies in morphemes, bound and free, particularly semantic prosody. Therefore, to fill the gap in the existing literature, the study explored some bound morphemes to trace their occurrences and semantic prosody and free morphemes to highlight their related neutral, positive or negative implications in the speeches. The methodology adopted in the study depended on a non-experimental design of 2 approaches: quantitative and qualitative. The study examined the concordances and frequency data in the chosen speeches. Referring to Antconc software to collect data (Frequencies, Hits, Collocates…), the researcher analyzed the data that led to the following findings: the frequent use of some bound morphemes and free morphemes directly revealed the intention of the speaker and his anticipation of the positive effect of war.

KEYWORDS: Morphological Elements, Bound Morphemes, Free Morphemes, Concordance


Leech (1983) noted that every language, whether spoken, written, or signed, has principles guiding the way of how sounds are spoken, how words are put together, how clauses, phrases, and sentences are organized, and finally how meaning is generated ( as cited in Meyer, 2009,pp.6-7).All the principles  are labelled in grammar which “consists of a set of primitive elements and a set of rules for deriving complex objects out of these primitives”( Embick, 2015, p.1). The prevailing view is that the primitive elements forming an amalgam of morphemes and all its types depend on a complex structure which is known as syntax. In the scope of this study, morphological elements are investigated as they deal with formation of words called morphemes which are the smallest units in language. It is stipulated that morphemes are either free, which can stand alone as complete words, or bound that are consisted of affixes and roots depending on the presence of free morphemes to transmit meanings as they are unable to operate alone. Additionally, bound morphemes in this research paper are approached in 2 terms: inflectional and derivational. It is known that inflectional morphemes have a basic role in changing either the tense or pluralize the root word without changing the class of the word, while derivational morphemes may change the meaning and the class of the words (Tighe and Binder 2013, p. 249).

A salient point to be discussed is that most politicians use recurrent forms of words to express their intended messages to their audience. Thus, this paper investigates the recurrent bound morphemes utilized in George W. Bush’s speeches and detects semantic prosody as well. Further, it examines some free morphemes to manipulate the speaker’s intention towards war. In addition, the research presents a thorough analysis of some free morphemes as used in the speeches to trace their impact.

When a word, such as CAUSE, co-occurs frequently with words that share a specific meaning or meanings, it gets some of the associated meanings of the other words as a consequence. This gained meaning is referred to as semantic prosody (Hu, 2015 as cited in Stewart, 2010). Besides, semantic prosody may elicit just a visceral reaction to the associations suggested by the word. Hassen posits that semantic prosody influences should also be observed on implicit attitude tests, which are designed to capture valanced connections that individuals may not be mindful of (p.120) and it refers to “to socially shared habits of thought, perception, and behavior reflected in numerous texts belonging to different genres” (Scollon and Scollon, 2001, p.538 as cited in Hassen 2015, p.120). Since the research tackles an analysis of a political discourse in the form of speech, it is significant to describe discourse whether spoken or written as a socially constructed language or system of representation for creating and disseminating a cohesive set of meanings regarding a relevant issue area. Regardless of some restrictions, discourse pertains to certain habits related to human behavior and thought reflected in a variety pieces of genres( Hassen, 2015).It is commonly known that discourse analysis includes language description of the syntax of the text, comprehension of the connection between (productive and interpretative) verbal processes and the text, and explanation of the connection between linguistic processes and social interactions ( De Souza, 2018).

Most studies have investigated certain linguistic, semantic, syntactic, and stylistic features in political speeches, such as in Duran’s study (2008) that traced expressions of gratitude and honor, etc. in speeches of George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry that were addressed before the 2004 Presidential Election in the United States of America. The study showed that Bush introduced his speech by giving a short summary of the events that took place in the past four years in the form of positive experiences.  John Kerry started his speech by telling anecdote of what American novelist wrote about home and addressed his opponents by presenting the negative aspects in the last four years. In the same vein, a study was conducted by Dlugan (2009) on Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream”.  The study presented 4 reasons that led the speech to be famous: repetition (anaphora and key words), historic references (direct quotations), geographic examples (places), and metaphors to stir audience’s emotions (Al-Majali, 2015). Further research papers, such as those that tackled Arab Spring have concentrated on topics such as democratic systems, protection, race, colonization, international relations, communication, and media. Their analyses focused on speech samples in contexts whether or not related to linguistics features (Qabani, 2023).  To fill the gap in the existing literature, the intent of this conducted study is to ascertain the manipulation of bound morphemes in the politician’s speeches that highlighted the issue of Iraqi War in 2003. The study classifies bound morphemes into 2 categories: Inflectional and Derivational to test their frequency and trace their distribution. In addition, it analyzes the used free morphemes to show their connotations.

Materials and Methods

This section provided the basic components of the research paper by presenting a detailed explanation of each: the research design determined both the type and method of the research based on the tackled topic and corpus of the study in terms of selection of corpus and concordance program. “Research designs are plans and the procedures for research that span the decisions from broad assumptions to detailed methods of data collection and analysis” (Creswell 2008, p.5 as cited in Abutabenjeh & Jaradat, 2018, p. 245).As the study examined the bound morphemes in political speeches, it depended on non-experimental research design that would not test any cause-effect relationship. Further, the study examined the concordances and frequency data in the chosen speeches of George W. Bush in order to present analysis, qualitative and quantitative, while depending on corpus linguistics. Moreover, qualitative analysis referred to the analysis of a word in a concordance according to the researcher’s own explanation and quantitative analysis as it is a statistical analysis, whether fundamental statistics, frequency, or more complex procedures: significance testing, cluster analysis, etc. (McEnery & Hardie, 2012).  The aim of qualitative research is multimethod, with an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This implies that qualitative researchers investigate phenomena in their natural environments, aiming to make sense of or interpret occurrences in terms of the meanings that people assign to them (Aspers & Corte, 2019). The study utilized a quantitative approach when detecting the frequencies of morphological elements in the selected speeches and a quantitative approach when analyzing their effectiveness on presentencing the intended message of the speaker. The quantitative approach is referred to ‘the epitome of the scientific approach’ (Quick & Hall, 2015). As for frequencies of occurrences, they would be categorized as the occurrences of morphemes in terms of specific features occurring in a corpus (Griess, 2009).

In this study, Corpus Linguistics was based on the selection of the corpora and the sources and the concordance program according to the objective of the study which was to tackle the morphological elements in the speeches of George W. Bush. The 2 speeches directly addressed the issue of Iraqi War: Speech 1, President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat on October 7, 2002 (Iraqi Threat, 2002) and Speech 2, George Bush’s War ultimatum speech from the Cross Hall in the White House on March 18, 2003 (Bush’s Ultimatum Speech, 2003). The transcriptions of the speeches were downloaded from reliable sources without any change either in the content or the structure. Bush’s speeches, covering a duration of 2 years, 2002 and 2003, were addressed to the public and media. Moreover, they conveyed his position or perspective towards war, policy, loyalty, etc. Pertaining to the concordance program, the study used AntConc software to collect and analyze data from the selected speeches. The software was created by Laurence Anthony in 2014 and it had a lot of versions which some have been recently updated. Version 3.5.9 was referred to for the text analysis in the concordance program.  The speeches were analyzed in terms of ‘frequency’ and ‘collocates’. Hunston (2002) postulates that collocations are frequently chosen in AntConc since they are easy to be manipulated and well expressed. In addition, the choice of these specific morphemes in the study was done provided that morphemes showed a significance in the study and their data were adequately analyzed to serve the tackled topic.

  1. Results and Discussion

The section presented the findings and analysis of the study. It had a twofold purpose: it demonstrated the findings and analysis of bound morphemes, derivational and inflectional and dealt with semantic prosody and examined the selected free morphemes and their association with the speaker’s attitude. The corpus of the study consisted of 2 speeches presented by the American President, George W Bush. The chosen speeches, well balanced and representative, were utilized in the concordance program, Antconc version 3.5.9 for the text analysis (5225 tokens in 2 speeches). Moreover, the analysis showed how the selected morphemes clustered with other words in the speeches in addition to the number of Hits and Ranks within a Type/token.

3.1. Analysis of: -ing suffix (Derivational and Inflectional) and semantic prosody

The discussion along with analysis of this subsection was derived from the data collected in AntConc software to deal with Hit, Frequency, and Parts of Speech. Consequently, the data were processed computationally (Table 1).

Table 1‘-ing’ inflectional & derivational ending with the highest frequency

As for semantic prosody, in most speeches, it would be categorized into 3: positive, negative and neutral. In Bush’s speeches, negative prosody was traced since the President referred to the regime in Iraq as corrupted leading to destruction of humanity. Further, in the selected speeches, most of the derivational morphemes with -ing suffix collocated with negative consequences of the dominion of the regime in Iraq before the war in 2003. The semantic prosody was interpreted in terms of the functions of these words:

– ‘Removing’ was used in ‘Iraq is the only certain means of removing the danger of our nations’, so Bush was afraid of Iraq because its strong power became a threatening force to the Americans.

– ‘Sending’ was referred to an action verb to show that there were 2 involved: sender and receiver. In the sentence used by the president, Congress would be sending a message to the dictator, so the sender was the Congress and the receiver was the Dictator; it was obvious that the President was speaking about his role in taking the decision of starting the war in Iraq and Iraq had to be prepared to receive the message.

– ‘Developing’ was the most frequently used in the speeches with 3 occurrences that were connected with ‘nuclear weapon’.  For example, in the following ‘How far is… developing a nuclear weapon…’, ‘…he is … even closer to developing nuclear weapon’, and ‘ten years…from developing nuclear weapon’, Bush expressed his annoyance and fear as Iraq was preparing its nuclear weapon during that time.

– ‘Uniting’ in ‘Our people by uniting against the violent’ was used to show Bush’s direct, intended message which was calling for war against the regime in Iraq. He was giving justification for calling the Armed Forces in his country to fight in the war. As for ‘gathering’ in ‘America must not ignore the threat gathering against us’, the President used it to show the power of threat that was not only towards the Iraqi, but also towards the Americans.

-‘ Deserving’ in ‘the Iraqi people are deserving of human liberty…’ and ‘Challenging’ in ‘America is challenging all nations to take the resolution…’, these 2 words with -ing suffix presented the convincing technique that Bush depended on; he assumed that the Iraqi people were suffering as  they were imprisoned by the strict regime there and he assumed that he had the resolution to help them by giving them their liberty.

3.2. Analysis of:  -ed suffix (Derivational & Inflectional) and semantic prosody

The derivational morphemes with -ed suffix was analyzed in terms of Hit, Frequency (Figure 2 &Table2) along with sematic prosody.

Figure 2 Negative connotations: Verbs with -ed Suffix

As for semantic prosody, most words presented negative connotations, such as tortured, invaded, attacked, disarmed, punished…to show that cruelty, maltreatment, injustice, fear, terror. This was justified when the speaker believed that the role of the American troops was important; for example, by using these bound morphemes, ‘punished’ to show that the troops would be ready to punish the criminals in ‘war criminals will be punished…’, the word ‘founded’ in “UN was founded …to confront’ to give justification to the role of UN as protective and humanitarian. Thus, these words represented negative semantic prosody as they collocated with the words:  disarm, attacks, deceit, invaded, brutally, and dictator to the left and to the right of verbs ending in –ed; they were figured for actions of cruelty. It was acknowledged that 196 Hits of the bound morpheme –ed with Frequency of 16 times where United States was mentioned to show that the president used the bound morpheme with -ed suffix with 16 times with United States proving that his sole aim was presenting his country and describing it as a peaceful one.

3.3 Analysis of:  suffix -full (. Derivational) and semantic prosody

the semantic prosody was illustrated as follows:  Bush gave justification for joining the Iraqi War as his aim was creating a peaceful nation. Thus, in ‘peaceful entry of coalition …to eliminate weapons of…’ and ‘peaceful efforts to disarm…’, he assumed that his troops had a peaceful mission which was to ‘eliminate the weapons’ of terrorists and get rid of Iraqi regime. Moreover, in ‘we are not dealing with peaceful men…’ and ‘we are peaceful people…’he confirmed that the leaders in Iraq were not ‘peaceful’, while the Americans were considered ‘peaceful’ people who were trying to save the Iraqi people. Semantic prosody was labelled negative when Bush referred to Iraqi leaders as terrorists who did show any ‘peaceful’ efforts. As for positive semantic prosody, Bush referred to his interference in Iraq policy would be considered ‘peaceful’. However, he knew that this interference would lead to ‘fearful consequences.

3.4 Analysis of:  Inflectional suffix (s plural and s possessive) and semantic prosody

          At this stage of study, suffix -s was analyzed by referring to its frequency of occurrence starting from the most frequently used in the speeches to the least frequently used. After examining the speeches, the number of Hits for each word ending with -s, -s’, and-’s suffix was counted to show how many times the speaker used them. Antconc software showed 53 Hits for plurals and singular. For further explanation, -s suffix for Plural was in these words: Sons, hours, sanctions, inspections, liters, Members, opponents and weapons, terrorists and photos and for Possessive Case was in Iraq’s and regime’s. Thus, -s suffix was used in the nouns to show possessive case and plural form.

A list of words that collocates ordered with the highest frequency depending on frequency with L (Left) and frequency with R (Right) in the concordance. In addition, words were ranked from 1 to 18. As for words with high frequency 7, 6 and 4, they were anthrax, nearly, warriors, satellite, pilots, mujahideen…The number of Collocate Tokens was 888.

The words with high frequency showed the main reason for initiation war in Iraq, such as anthrax, warriors, and mujahideen. They showed the opinions of the leader towards the war in Iraq. Bush directly expressed his decision of joining the war since he believed that the Iraqi People were suffering because of their leader. He took the decision of starting the war without any hesitation

3.5. Analysis of: un- prefix (Derivational) and semantic prosody

          In this study, the frequency and semantic prosody of -un were presented. Some words with the prefixes were only explicitly referenced, while others were not traced since they lacked any significance either in the Frequency or Rank within the scope of the study. The prefix un- was not commonly used in the speeches of Bush. The words with un- in unrelenting, unfettered, unmanned, unfortunately, unknown and unavoidable were used to express Bush’s annoyance towards the Iraqi leader. The part of speech in all chosen words was used as adjective, except for ‘unfortunately’ which was used as an adverb. The words as said by Bush would indicate the following:

– ‘Unmanned’ in ‘Iraq has a growing fleet…unmanned …vehicles that…’indicated the strength of Iraq when depending on such a type of weapon to face the enemy. This probably threatened Bush and led him to announce the beginning of war in Iraq in 2003.

As for the semantic prosody, it was labelled as negative: ‘Unmanned’ indicated that even the American president was afraid of this type of weapon and expressed his annoyance especially when recognizing that Iraq in 2002 was a powerful country which would not be controlled by anyone. The word, ‘Unfortunately’ signified a negative semantic prosody when Bush claimed that he had tried many times to negotiate especially for freeing the American pilot. Negative indication was shown in ‘unknown’ when it was used to refer to the unknown destiny of the pilot and this led Bush to refer to the war as the final resolution for peace. ‘Unfettered’ indicated a negative semantic prosody when the Americans were exercising their power on the Iraqi leaders. As for the last word, ‘unavoidable’, it indicated a negative semantic prosody also when the Americans were exercising their power on the Iraqi leaders and they considered the war in Iraq as unavoidable.

3.6. Analysis of: dis- prefix (Derivational) and semantic prosody

          In this study, dis -prefix was examined in its frequency and semantic prosody. Some words with the prefix were not traced since they did not show any significance either in the Frequency or Rank. Dis- prefix occurred in higher frequency in disarmed. The semantic preference aligned with ‘disarm’ for higher quantity collocates when vertically examined in the concordance program (Table 2).

Table 2 Prefix dis-

As for the semantic prosody, it was labelled as negative and positive in the chosen words; the semantic prosody was the relationship between the nodes (to the left and to the right) and the keywords. For positive collocates, the act of disarming the leader was a victories action; it was also expressed when the disarmament of the country would be peaceful. Positive was also shown as disarmament would be proceeded peacefully without a lot of casualties.

3.7. Free morphemes and their association with attitude.

As per positive semantic prosody of ‘nation’ (Table 3), its connotation aligned with ‘immediately’, ‘hope’, ‘refuse to live’, ‘protect’, ‘secure’, ‘peaceful, self-governing, increase’ and collocations with ‘working, possibly, large, increase, governors’.  The speaker’s attitude was positive towards the war and he believed that the only refuge for peace was throughout ‘the nation’, America, which would stand for relief to all people. ‘Nation’ here symbolized the speaker’s belief in the strength of his nation and its power to save all innocent people from terrorists.

Table 3 Nation as positive semantic prosody

  1. Conclusions

The main core of the selected speeches was raising the issue of starting the war in Iraq in 2003. A lot of debates in America were held between different political parties about either joining the war or refusing it.  In the research paper, the manipulation of bound and free morphemes in terms of their frequencies as well as their connotations (positive and negative) as shown in the selected speeches was tackled to show the President’s perspective towards joining the Iraqi war. Manifestly, in Bush’s speeches, negative semantic prosody was traced since the President referred to the regime in Iraq as corrupted that would lead to destruction of humanity. As for positive semantic prosody, the President gave justification for joining the war as it was an urgent need to save the lives of people in Iraq. Moreover, the speeches conveyed messages with intended meanings hidden or not and revealed their impact regardless of the occasion of these speeches. In other words, the chosen speeches targeted the American people and sent them the intended message which was according to the speaker to pacify with the Iraqi people and support them in their crises.

Aspers, P. and Corte, U. (2019). What is qualitative research in Qualitative Research? Qualitative Sociology, 42, 139‒160.

Hunston, S. (2002). Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McEnery, T., & Hardie, A. (2012). Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice. Cambridge University Press.

Meyer, C. (2009). Introducing English Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

 Qabani, A. (2023). Readability and Simplicity of Arabic Political Discourse. Asian Social Science19(1), 1.

TIGHE, E. L., & BINDER, K. S. (2013). An investigation of morphological awareness and processing in adults with low literacy. Applied Psycholinguistics36(2), 245–273.

[1] – أستاذ دكتور في اللغة الإنكليزيّة وآدابها في الجامعة اللبنانيّة كلّيّة الآداب والعلوم الإنسانيّة – قسم اللغة الإنكليزيّة.

Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Deanship, English Department, Lebanese University, Lebanon

Correspondence Email:

6 تعليقات
  1. Nadine Saassouh يقول

    Thank you Prof. May Matta. This paper is interesting as it offers a comprehensive analysis of the morphological elements in political speeches, shedding light on the linguistic strategies employed to convey messages.

  2. Diaa Sameeh Jaber يقول

    The research paper is undoubtedly a commendable and influential addition to the fields of linguistics and political discourse analysis. It adeptly addresses a significant gap in existing literature by conducting a meticulous examination of the morphological elements found in two political speeches delivered by former American President George W. Bush in 2002 and 2003. The paper’s comprehensive approach, combining both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and incorporating the Antconc software for data collection and analysis, highlights the depth of the study. Set against the backdrop of a critical juncture in American history, this research carries implications that extend to a broader understanding of political communication strategies and have the potential to reshape our comprehension of linguistics and language studies. It illuminates the intricate interplay between language and politics, with its impact resonating throughout academic and practical spheres alike.

    1. Andalib يقول

      This paper is undoubtedly a valuable addition to the fields of linguistics and political discourse analysis. Thank you Dr May.

  3. Suad يقول

    The thesis is valuable and very rich
    .in information
    The work is original
    .debatable, and new

  4. Hanaa Samaha يقول

    Highly recommended to be resorted by researchers as a sure, clear and useful reference.Definitely it’s an excellent and influential contribution to the fields of linguistics and political discourse research.
    This study has consequences for a broader knowledge of political communication methods and has the potential to transform our understanding of linguistics and language studies. It is applicable to both academic and practical contexts.

  5. Nada El-Khansa يقول

    !A very interesting study
    It’s definitely a contribution to the analysis of political discourse especially for higher education students who can
    . take it as a model paper to learn from
    Keep glowing our dear Professor May

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