‘If you ride a lame horse into a race …’: A Corpus-Based Analysis of Metaphors in John Mahama’s Political Speeches

Richmond Sadick Ngula [1]

[1]  University of Botswana, Communication and Study Skills Unit, CAD, https://orcid.org/ 0000-0003-3499-4480, ngular@ub.ac.bw


Studies on metaphor in political speeches have gained prominence in recent years, especially in Western political contexts where it has been shown that politicians gain the trust, confidence, and ratification of their audience when they speak persuasively (Charteris-Black, 2011, 2014). However, not much research has focused on the use of metaphors by politicians in non-Western (developing) contexts where political language is shaped by many factors that may account for variations in the use of metaphor across cultures. This paper contributes to the rhetoric of metaphor in political discourse by examining the range of (conceptual) metaphors used in the speeches of an African politician – John Mahama of Ghana. Drawing on discourse and cognitive theories of metaphor, I explore Mahama’s use of metaphors in his political speeches, arguing that, as a political speaker, Mahama uses metaphor in a conscious, consistent, and conceptually structured manner that projects his ideological stance on issues of politics and governance. The study reveals that Mahama draws on many conventional metaphors but uses them in creative and unconventional ways to depict culturally relevant situations, and to convey his political ideologies to his audience. The findings in this study do not only contribute towards a better understanding of Mahama’s communicative style, but also foreground the persuasive potential of metaphor for audience engagement in political discourse.

Keywords: Metaphor, Political Speeches, John Mahama, Cognitive Rhetoric, Political Ideology, Corpus- Based Analysis.


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