Analysing the Pragma-rhetorical Structure of Motivational Storytelling in Commencement Speeches Given at American Universities

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Ahmed Sahib Mubarak , Kadhim Ketab Rhaif


This study examines the pragmatic-rhetorical structure of motivational storytelling structure in American commencement speeches. It focuses on the pragmatic-rhetorical structure that commencement speakers employ while delivering stories of success in order to encourage and urge graduates to act prudently in the future. It analyses the structure of the storytelling in accordance with Labov’s framework and then investigates the pragmatic and rhetorical strategies in structure of this type of storytelling. More specifically, it explores how speech acts, flouting the conversational maxims, figures of speech and rhetorical appeals in each stage of storytelling. To achieve these aims, the researchers chose ten commencement speeches given between 2010 and 2019. The findings showed that each stage of the storytelling structure is embodied with as set of pragma-rhetorical strategies that commencement speakers resort to to motivate and advice the graduates to behave wisely.


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