Hold on! How to pause in charismatic speeches: A case study of Barack Obama

Oliver Niebuhr, Elina Banzina

Publikation: Kapitel i bog/rapport/konference-proceedingKonferencebidrag i proceedingsForskningpeer review

20 Downloads (Pure)


The use and powerful effects of planned pauses in public speaking traditionally have been viewed and researched from the perspective of their duration, but in seasoned speakers’ delivery the pause-surrounding phonetic material can be a no less effective tool that works in tandem with the planned pause to sway the opinions of the listeners. The present study is about Barack Obama, the former president of the United States of America. Obama is commonly hailed as a highly eloquent and effective speaker. Among the most unique features of his speech are the skillfully realized and systematically used pauses as well as the sound patterns that immediately precede/follow them. The striking nature of these pauses and patterns prompted our acoustic analysis, based on which we aimed at quantifying and describing this nature in detail. In a subsequent step, these quantifications and descriptions can help decipher the elusive concept of persuasion in public speaking. In contexts where Obama aspired to be highly persuasive, we analyzed his (i) pause length, (ii) visual (i.e. mimic) cues during the pause, and (iii) prosodic contrasts in the pre- and post-pause speech material (three syllables to either side), firstly, to understand the underlying mechanisms of how Obama realizes pauses and, secondly, to work out prosodic differences (if any) between his mid-message (MM) and post-message (PM) pauses. Of particular interest were PM pauses as they were the leading type of pause in Barack Obama’s speech and stood out among the rest in their saliency and power. We used Barack Obama’s speech at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2ScHyXs50Q).
TitelBook of Abstracts of the 13th Nordic Prosody Conference
Antal sider3
Publikationsdato17. aug. 2022
StatusUdgivet - 17. aug. 2022


Dyk ned i forskningsemnerne om 'Hold on! How to pause in charismatic speeches: A case study of Barack Obama'. Sammen danner de et unikt fingeraftryk.