The rhetorical imprint of Nelson Mandela as reflected in public speeches 1950 - 2004
The study set out to construct a rhetorical imprint of Nelson Mandela as reflected in a combination of all, as well as selected publicly available speeches from 1950 to 2004. The rhetorical imprint refers to constant, underlying patterns of distinctive, verbal characteristics that support the content of numerous speeches in different contexts (Burgchardt, 1985: 441). The rhetorical imprint is conceptualised in pragmatic constructivist terms to be the product of the conceptual categories of the mind, which are intrinsically metaphorically structured (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980: 7). Since conceptual categories cannot be directly observed, evidence of the particular conceptual categories which governed Nelson Mandela’s rhetorical imprint was sought in the rhetoric itself. The rhetorical imprint functions at both the manifest and latent levels of meaning. In this study, the researcher accessed the surface-level patterns through quantitative, computer-aided content analysis, while the very fact that the individual conceptual system was considered metaphorical suggested the use of metaphorical concepts as qualitative tool in order to access the deeply embedded content of the conceptual categories which were most influential on the rhetorical imprint. The rhetorical imprint was finally synthesised from the qualitative and quantitative data in terms of the general characteristics of the rhetoric, the cognitive complexity and the conceptual structure of the rhetorical imprint, which consists of transcending conceptual motifs and sub-ordinate themes. Mandela’s rhetoric was also contextualised against his biographical background and ethos, as well as against the overall rhetorical situation, which include the socio-political context as controlling need or exigency, a consideration of the rhetorical audiences and constraints on the rhetor. Mandela’s rhetoric was found to be complex, with sophisticated vocabulary use and conceptual structuring. The rhetorical complexity indicates a rhetor who is cognitively complex and able to adapt his rhetoric to the nuances of different audiences and contexts. Mandela’s rhetoric further indicates a definite evolution from sub-corpus to sub-corpus. It was found that the controlling concern of the struggle period revolved around aspects of struggle, while the liberation sub-corpus signified a focus on aspects of the political transition. The presidential period focused on reconciliation and reconstruction and the postpresidential sub-corpus indicates a preoccupation with the issue of HIV/AIDS. The most dominant conceptual motif at the core of Mandela’s rhetorical imprint was found to be his use of the archetypal JOURNEY source domain in metaphorical concepts to conceptualise the controlling concerns throughout the entire corpus. The JOURNEY motif is accompanied by a forward-looking orientation where future paths and destinations are optimistically envisioned. The source domains war and building/structure are also prominent, although subordinate to JOURNEY. The metaphorical concepts related to JOURNEY are based on the mega-metaphorical concept LIFE IS A JOURNEY, while war is derived from LIFE IS A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL and building/structure is based on ABSTRACT COMPLEX SYSTEMS ARE BUILDINGS. These mega-metaphorical concepts interact and indicate that Mandela’s individual construal system and rhetoric are fundamentally structured by the notion of a PERILOUS SYMBOLIC JOURNEY, which is the rhetorical imprint, and that all metaphorical concepts discovered in his rhetoric are subsumed in this configuration.