Language

In this part, we will focus on the language employed by John F. Kennedy in his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in West Berlin.

Tone and style

A few weeks before delivering the speech, John F. Kennedy had publicly talked about cooperation between the US and the Soviet Union. However, this speech came across as aggressive and provocative, which led to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev saying that the two speeches seemed to have been delivered by two different people.

Throughout his speech, Kennedy employs a firm tone, which highlights his determination to maintain an American presence in Berlin and to continue to show support for West Berliners and defiance towards the Soviets. When he tries to make a strong impression on the audience, Kennedy repeats the phrase “Let them come to Berlin”, which is stressed and pronounced with firmness every time, provoking an emotional reaction in the listeners. In the televised version of the speech, you can see that Kennedy also stresses the phrase “Let them come to Berlin” by tapping on the lectern.

When it comes to the style of the speech, note that Kennedy intends to build up emotions in the audience. He pauses frequently for reactions and applause and ends his speech on a high note, by repeating the emblematic phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”). This is intended to give a sense of hope and solidarity to West Berliners and to send a clear message of defiance to the Soviet government.

Choice of words

An important part of Kennedy’s speech is the delivery of several sentences in German: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”), which is repeated twice, and “Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen” (“Let them come to Berlin”). Both sentences received enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience, as they reinforced US support for West Berlin. Using phrases in German also implies that Kennedy cares about the situation of Germans in West Berlin and is able to see the issue from their perspective.

Kennedy also employs the words “proud”, “proudest”, and “pride” seven times in his speech. At first, he talks about his pride of being able to talk in front of strong Berliners. Then, he talks about the pride of Berliners who have been resilient in the face of Communism. Finally, he talks about the pride of the Americans, who share an important historical moment with Germany.

Several verbs, such as “separating” (l. 47), “dividing” (l. 47), and “denied” (l. 52), along with...

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