The White House speeches: Semantic and paralinguistic strategies for eliciting applause*

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The paper puts forward two major factors in the conscious or unconscious elicitation of applause in diplomatic speeches. The research is based on the seven speeches by Israeli, Palestinian, American and Russian leaders, in the signing of the accord between Israel and the PLO in September 1993. Firstly, despite the expected content of these speeches, certain utterances with words and phrases belonging to appropriate semantic fields such as 'peace', 'courage', 'gratitude', which may be regarded as major themes in such speeches, were often applauded by the audience. Secondly, sometimes but not necessarily in conjunction with the occurrence of words and phrases from the appropriate lexical fields, a change in tempo, usually a slowdown in speech rate, often enhanced by pauses, also led to applause by the audience. It is also suggested that cases in which the conditions for applause seem to be fulfilled, but no applause was forthcoming may be attributed to 'audience fatigue'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-224
Number of pages26
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


  • Applause elicitation
  • Audience fatigue
  • Paralinguistics
  • Semantic fields
  • Turn-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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