The King's Speech: A Fascinating Glimpse At Linguistics and Speech Impediments

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The use of language in politics and positions of power projects a certain identity. How these individuals direct their linguistic capabilities is imperative in their overall recognition as a leader. A charismatic speaker may be inspiring, while a person,

As Prince Albert’s wife proclaims, “My husband is required to speak publicly”. Logue then replies, “Perhaps he should change jobs!”

The use of language in politics and positions of power projects a certain identity. How these individuals direct their linguistic capabilities is imperative in their overall recognition as a leader. A charismatic speaker may be inspiring, while a person, who seeks to keep silent while sharing their position or stance, is seen as lackluster.

Politicians have become actors as King George V remarks after his Christmas broadcast. He shames his older son who isn’t capable of maintaining or upholding the families’ standards of civility and duty. It is Prince Albert who must learn to send his message through the microphone and to the public.

Prince Albert, Duke of York, has an evident sense of his shortcomings in language. His stern look on his face, which mimics fear, and insecurities with his eye contact and stiff body, sets his speech up for failure at Wembley Stadium in the opening scene. Stuttering just altered his reactions and demeanor a bit, and certainly changed his identity when faced with a particular audience.

What struck as me as amazing, however, was shortly after his failed attempt at Wembley, Prince Albert told a penguin story to his daughters. He did sway back and forth a bit, but he remained animated and delighted, telling the story with ease, with only a few pauses. He didn’t feel judgment or insecure, nor did his daughters mind the minor detours in pronunciation.

Lionel Logue, the linguist played by Geoffrey Rush, sought to cure Prince Albert through encouragement, building his self-esteem and sense of self. Lionel Logue provided him an identity in which he could build upon and be proud off, because his posture and body language were already reminiscent of a king.

As Prince Albert and Lionel meet for the first time, Prince Albert explains that his stutter began during childhood, between the age of 4 or 5, so he was told. He couldn’t remember when he hadn’t stuttered.

An experiment by Lionel using the Silver-tone provides us the answer of whether body language is connected with Albert’s impediment. His mind and insecurities are what determines if he’s able to deliver a word or sentence. He’s stuck inside his own head. A voice telling him he won’t be able to pronounce it leads him to believe just that. Therefore his jaw clenches and his shoulders rise to his ears, therefore his mechanics, or body language, are not conducive to fluent speech.

Furthermore, Albert used to be left handed and through incestuous teasing starting using his right, as if it was a sin. His father would yell at him and say “just get it out”. In an essence it was because of the teasing that led to the lack of self which made him clench up and led to the stuttering.

Prince Albert managed to forge his stuttering with speech, making the patterns rich and steady. Continuous sound made his words flow, always humming a song in his head.

A non-fluent speaker may pause at uncomfortable moments; freeze up; repeat a word or sentence perhaps, much the same as a person who stutters. The implications for this are the same as a person who stutters in politics or a position of power. It can be good or bad for an identity, but it depends on how the impediment is managed.

In the end, King George “didn’t need to be afraid of things he was when he was five”, Logue replied. His speech during his coronation demonstrated he had “faith in his own voice “and he knew friends were listening.

His greatest test was at a time of need when Hitler was prepared to attack. His speech “In this grave hour” was poetic. His speeches following inspired all.

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Lauren Axelrod

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