By the time you read this column the critics, scoffers and nay-sayers would have poured scorn on The State of the Nation Address. Repeatedly you would have heard he should have said this and that; we wish he had said that. Yes there would also be those who would say: “Nothing has changed in this speech; the speech is the same every year”. Obviously they would be wrong in such a claim; but their criticism would have also certainly stayed static. There would also be the praise singers wishing to put it on record that his was the best speech ever!
This year’s speech was delivered in about 15,194 words, of which only 2,946 were unique words and 12,248 words were repetition from somewhere in the speech. This means that the speech had low lexical density; put differently, the speech did not use many different complex words; something which is excellent for addressing the general public. The speech was crafted for information and not to impress. Perhaps it is no wonder it is entitled: Real leadership for real delivery. The speech used 826 numbers. Of these 203 were mere paragraph numbers of the speech making the real delivery of real numbers to be 623. Some of the numbers were not really numbers, but just years such as 2016, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Numbers are obviously important to bring specificity to a speech. Other numbers were percentages such as in “…archival collections increased by 46% … the number of archives users grew by 4.3% while the number of documents used increased by 21.5%.” Other numbers were specifically used to demonstrate how close or indeed how far we are to a specific target. For instance: “Today marks 1061 days before the Golden Jubilee Celebrations for our country.” We are today 1061 days from Friday, September 30, 2016. The president has also announced “our theme for the celebrations” which is “Botswana First – Botswana Pele”. The theme is appropriate in the face of competing narrow tribalistic identities and interests which sometimes threaten to derail the unity of the nation.
The speech uses 412 one letter words; 2,640 two letter words; 2,644 three letter words; 2,003 four letter words, 1,327 five letter words; 1,093 six letter words; 1,417 seven letter words; 1,136 eight letter words; 907 nine letter words and 721 ten letter words. The twenty longest words used in the speech, starting with the longest word, are: telecommunications, commercialization, decentralization, entrepreneurship, responsibilities, competitiveness, computerization, concessionaires, diversification, internationally, notwithstanding, professionalism, rationalisation, recommendations, underemployment, accountability, administration, administrative, authentication and communications. Of all these long words diversification is used most. It appears nine times in the speech; followed by competitiveness which is used five times. The twenty shortest words in the speech are: I, am, an, as, at, AU, be, by, do, EU, go, ID, if, in, is, it, me, mw, my, and no. Of the words used in the speech the following are the most common words in the speech: the, of, to, and, in a, as, for, our, with, is, has, have, are, government, this, been, we, that and by. Most of these with the exception of government what in linguistics are called functional words. They are not content words. Their function in the speech is grammatical and cohesive – aiding the speech to hang together and flow. The 20 most frequent content words are the following: government, year, madam, speaker, Botswana, youth, sector, national, public, country, total, programme, continue, million, services, number, private, international, management and local . Content words are important since they reveal the key issues in a speech. I was rather struck by the frequent use of the word total in the speech and wished to inspect its context. It is used 34 times in the speech accounting for 0.22% of the speech. And here it is: … in 2012/13 a total of goods and services…, …a total of 789 enterprises have…, …a total investment worth…, …enterprises with a total value of…, …new enterprises with a total monetary… Having inspected the data it appears to me the word total has been overused, perhaps even misused. I can imagine almost all of the usages without the word total and yet without a change in meaning. For instance there is absolutely nothing wrong in saying …789 enterprises have… instead of …a total of 789 enterprises have… or …investment worth… instead of…a total investment worth… Something also tells me that there may have been unintended meanings through the use of the word total. For instance an expression such as “a total investment worth just over P1 billion was realized” may imply wrongly that the investment was only of monetary value while the same investment may be measured not just financially but using other yardsticks. Amongst the rarest words are: abject, absolute, absorb, abundance, abuse, abused, abusive, academic, academy, accessible, accessing, achievers and achievements. All these occur only once in the speech.
Let us look at the distribution of the initial-word letter usage in the speech. Only 6 words in the speech begin with Z. These are Zutshwa, zone, Zimbabwean, zero and Zambezi. 11 words begin with Y. 74 words begin with W; 36 words begin with V; 53 words begin with U; 139 words begin with T; 253 words begin with S; 217 words begin with R; only 8 words begin with Q; 249 words begin with P; 98 words begin with O; 58 words begin with N; 150 words begin with M; 93 words begin with L; 18 words begin with K; 18 words begin with J; 152 words begin with I; 63 words begin with H; 79 words begin with G; 131 words begin with F; 181 words begin with; 167 words begin with D; 317 words begin with C; 130 words begin with B while 240 words begin with A.
I leave the critics and the political analysts to deal with the politics.