The language of “The Declaration of Independence” is formal and appears very old-fashioned today, but the overall message is still understandable. Examples of old fashioned words and phrases are “levy War” (l. 160) instead of ‘wage war’, “political bands” (l. 5) instead of ‘political ties’, “hath shewn” (l. 27) instead of ‘has shown’ or “brethren” (l. 136) instead of ‘brothers’. This is because the document was drafted in 1776 and the English language has changed over time.
Choice of words
Looking at the choice of words, you will notice that many words are related to government and policy implementation as the document is meant to list the reasons why American colonies need to declare independence: “He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.” (ll. 73-75)
The writers use many negative words because a good part of the Declaration represents a condemnation of the rule of King George III over the colonies. Some relevant examples are: “destructive” (l. 20), “abuses and usurpations” (l. 31), “absolute Despotism” (l. 33), “patient sufferance” (ll. 35-36), “absolute Tyranny” (l. 41), “unusual, uncomfortable, and distant” (l. 56), “the dangers of invasion” (l. 66), “works of death, desolation and tyranny” (ll. 116-117), “most barbarous ages” (l. 118), etc.
However, there are also a few positive words and phrases included, when the writers talk about legitimate government and independence, such as: “equal” (l. 14), “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (l. 16), “civilized nation” (l. 119), “most humble terms” (l. 130), “native justice and magnanimity” (l. 140), “full Power” (l. 159), “firm reliance” (l. 163), “sacred Honor” (l. 165), etc. These words and phrases help to create an image of a more hopeful future.
Additionally, you will notice that many common nouns and verbs are capitalized, as a way of emphasizing them or introducing a new idea: “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms:” (ll. 120-130)
Focusing on the choice of pronouns, you will observe that the Declaration is written in the first-person plural, which is meant to give it legitimacy as a text representing the will of the people: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” (l. 13), “We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation…” (ll. 145-146)
Also, the writers use the third-person singular and plural to mark a clear difference between the views of the colonies (us) and the views of the British King and the British government (he/them): “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws...” (ll. 86-88); “They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity” (ll. 144-145).
The sentence structure of “The Declaration of Independence” shows that the writers use inverted syntax and do not use modern day word order. One example is: “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant” (ll. 55-56). Normally, the noun follows the adjectives and not the other way around.
Another example is:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the ...