Unseen Text: Chicken Tikka Masala
Text Type: Political Speech
Guiding Question: How does the speaker use language to convince his listeners of his message?
Beginning your unseen analysis with observations about context, purpose and audience can set you up to make some thoughtful points and evaluations later in your response. Sometimes, this information needs to be inferred, but in many papers you can find it easily: look at the heading, the byline, and quickly scan the margins of the text for extra information provided to you by those who know it might be important. Good public speakers always know who their audience is and shape their use of language to appeal to their listeners. This response shows you how to begin with this in mind; then you can make much out of certain turns of phrase or choices of words and evaluate the likely success of the speaker’s arguments. For all its strengths, remember the response below is just one possible way of approaching this task; alternative analysis points and evaluations can be equally valid.
This extract is part of a longer speech delivered by Robin Cook to the Social Market Foundation, a department that advises the government on social and economic policy. In 2001, when Robin Cook made this speech, he was the foreign secretary and his listeners would have had a keen interest in his opinion on issues such as immigration, because his views would drive their agenda for the duration of his time in government. The speech clearly lays out Robin Cook’s opinions on multiculturalism in Britain: he sees cultural diversity as a strength of the United Kingdom. He rejects the ‘old fashioned’ way of defining national identify (through ‘race and ethnicity’) and argues that national identity is a matter of ‘shared ideals and values’ instead.
In terms of establishing his ethos and credibility, Robin Cook uses language appropriate to this particular group of listeners. He uses economic arguments such as ‘Britain continues to be the preferred location for multinational companies seeking to set up in Europe’ and describes London as a ‘perfect hub.’ Terms such as ‘perfect hub’, ‘multinational companies’ and ‘economic vitality’ are designed to highlight the benefits of a diverse culture for his listeners, and likely echo their own sense of priorities. Cook’s mode of speech also helps to establish his credibility and trustworthiness. His paragraphs are extremely well balanced; in fact, all his main body paragraphs have precisely three sentences. Known as a tricolon, this repeated pattern of three gives the main body of his speech a careful, measured quality, one that can be associated with the speaker as much as the speech itself. Occasionally he uses shorter, more emphatic sentences to drive home a key point or main argument, such as the phrase: ‘Today’s London is a perfect hub of the globe.’
His speech relies more on logos than pathos, appealing to members of a ‘think-tank’, who are likely to be intelligent and alert for any cheap emotional appeals. Near the beginning of his speech he states facts and statistics proving London’s diversity: ‘it is home to over 30 ethnic communities of at least 10000 residents each.’ Some statistics are surprising, such as the fact that over 300 languages can be heard spoken in London. However, the declarative way in which he speaks (‘It is home…’ ‘over 300 languages will be spoken…’) makes it hard for his listeners to disagree. The first quote very carefully uses the term ‘resident’ instead of ‘immigrant’, a word that supports Cook’s central argument: people of different races and ethnicities always have been a part of British culture. This positive use of diction (a kind of reverse name-calling) is a trend throughout the whole piece, and other examples include: ‘new communities’ and ‘population movements’ (instead of ‘immigration’); ‘pluralism’, ‘immense asset’, ‘citizenship.’
The structure of the text is also logical, moving from the past to the present and into the future. Cook begins by debunking myths of English ‘historical’ purity, refusing to dwell in a nostalgic and inaccurate view of British history that he calls a ‘fantasy’. Nowhere is this more evident than in his opening anecdote about Richard the Lionheart, revealing that this quintessential English king ‘spoke French’ and ‘depended on the Jewish community.’ He moves onto the present day (‘Today’s London… In this city tonight…’) and ends with his aspiration for the future: ‘Cultural diversity, allied to a shared concept of equal citizenship, can be a source of enormous strength.’ He is implying that, because cultural diversity is and was a feature of British identity, so it should continue to be in the future. Although this is somewhat of a logical fallacy (akin to the slippery slope fallacy) it is nevertheless persuasive. Cook’s use of modals (‘can’, ‘cannot’, ‘must be’ and ‘should’) at the end of the speech affirms his positive and aspirational tone, as if we can all put our disagreements behind us and join him in his shared vision for the future.
The speech is also designed to build up to an important example of metonymy: in the second-last paragraph he explains that ‘Chicken tikka is an Indian dish’ but that it was altered to accommodate British preferences for ‘meat served in gravy.’ According to Cook, this food ‘is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences,’ and he invokes it to symbolise Britain’s history of cultural diversity. Eating food is a cultural practice and the types of foods people eat are a powerful expression of cultural identity. Cook is aware of the irony that the very same people who have a narrow, ‘Anglo-Saxon’ view of English culture have elevated an Indian curry to the ‘true British national dish’! His audience, however, will probably share his amusement at this notion. Once again, in this section of his speech he uses declarative sentences (‘chicken tikka is…’) that brook no argument.
In conclusion, although he is already a figure of considerable authority (Foreign Secretary) Cook does not take his credibility for granted. Instead, he carefully considers his audience and uses language that aligns him and them on the same side. His use of the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ throughout (‘this pluralism is not a burden we must accept reluctantly’; ’we should draw inspiration from their experience’) includes his audience in his beliefs, which are progressive and forward thinking. He rejects a mythical – and inaccurate – past and breaks down the fantasy of British ‘purity’ in a thoughtful way. Finally, he seems entirely authentic in his delivery, and it is easy to get onboard with someone so passionate in his own beliefs.
Categories:Paper 1 Analysis