Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis

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Bibliographic Information
Journal Grassroots
Title Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis
Author(s) Sultan, Ameer, Ayaz Afsar, Mubarak Ali Lashari
Volume 53
Issue 1
Year 2019
Pages 173-183
Full Text Crystal Clear mimetype pdf.png
URL Link
Keywords Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches, United Nations General Assembly, Corpus Tool, India
Chicago 16th Sultan, Ameer, Ayaz Afsar, Mubarak Ali Lashari. "Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis." Grassroots 53, no. 1 (2019).
APA 6th Sultan, A., Afsar, A., Lashari, M. A. (2019). Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis. Grassroots, 53(1).
MHRA Sultan, Ameer, Ayaz Afsar, Mubarak Ali Lashari. 2019. 'Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis', Grassroots, 53.
MLA Sultan, Ameer, Ayaz Afsar, Mubarak Ali Lashari. "Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis." Grassroots 53.1 (2019). Print.
Harvard SULTAN, A., AFSAR, A., LASHARI, M. A. 2019. Nawaz Sharif’s Speeches to the United Nations General Assembly: A Corpus-Based Analysis. Grassroots, 53.


Every year heads of different states make their speeches in the general debate of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). They address national and international issues and suggest measures to resolve them with the help of international community and the United Nations. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also made speeches in the UNGA. In 2013, he was newly elected prime minister and was enthusiastic to resolve issues with India. There was no internal political pressure on him at that time and the government in India was hostile towards Pakistan. But one year in power and embattled with domestic issues and international pressure, the prime minster approached the issues differently in his 2014 speech. The aim of this paper is to compare his two speeches and see what changes occurred in his stance towards India. The main focus of the analysis is: Who is the addressee of these speeches? How confident did Nawaz feel about the solution of the issues that he raised?. The Corpus tool Wmatrix has been used to analyze the data. The results show significant differences in his two speeches with regard to his stance towards India. INTRODUCTION

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) holds a general debate on different themes every year and statesmen from different countries make their speeches as representatives of their respective countries. Most of them talk about their domestic, regional and international issues. Pakistan, a very important country in South Asia, has had a great geo-strategic importance as a frontline state in the twenty-first century war on terror. After 9/11 Pakistan has become the most important state against the war on terror. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan in the general elections of May 2013. He made two speeches in UNGA; his first speech was on 27 September 2013 and the second on 26 September 2014. When he made his 2013 speech, there was little political pressure on him from his opponents. He was enthusiastic, energetic and confident as he came into power after the gap of 14 years. He had overwhelming majority in the parliament and his brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif was also elected as the Chief Minister of Punjab which is the biggest province of the country. It was the ideal time for the government of Nawaz Sharif to take popular decisions at home and abroad. Moreover, the rival country, India, had a government which was not particularly hostile towards Pakistan. The Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh was comparatively mild in his attitude towards Pakistan. In 2014, in contrast, Nawaz Sharif faced extensive internal pressure from the major opposition leader Imran Khan in the form of sit-in against the alleged rigging in the 2013 elections. The sit-in badly damaged the image of Nawaz Sharif government at home and abroad. An anti-Pakistan government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come to power in power in India. Hence, the speeches made by Nawaz Sharif took place in two different scenarios. The aim of the present study is to analyze the difference between both the speeches delivered by Nawaz Sharif in terms of use, at micro level, of personal pronouns, modal auxiliaries (may, might, probably etc.) and word frequency related to important issues of Pakistan and Muslim world. At macro level, the main focus of the analysis is: Who is the addressee of these speeches? How confident did Nawaz feel about the solution of the issues that he raised?. How confidently he presented his stance towards India in UNGA?


Political language, political speeches and media shows have been analyzed by different researchers in the different regions of the world. Political discourse is an important area of Critical Discourse analysis. According to Graber (1981:196) political discourse takes place ‘when political actor in and out of government, communicate about political matters, for political purposes’. Fairclough (2000) used keyword based study about the use of political language. Bhatia (2006) conducted research on critical discourse analysis of political press conferences. He analyzed the press conference of Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the US President George W. Bush. The study revealed three major themes: positivity for the reinforcement of mutual trust, respect and progress; influence and power for subtle persuasion; and evasion to hedge avoid responses to probing and inconvenient questions Trailovic (2014) worked on Corpus-based analysis of political speeches of warfare delivered by Bush and Obama. Balogh (2011) analyzed the Jacques Chirac foreign policy speeches. Al-Majali (2015) conducted the discourse analysis of the political speeches of the ousted Arab Presidents during the Arab Spring Revolution using Halliday and Hasan's Framework of Cohesion. He analyzed the speeches of Tunisian president Zain Al-Abedeen Bin Ali, Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak and Libyan president, Muammer Al-Gaddafi. He noted that lexical features such as repetition and synonymy as the ideology threatening the civilian protesters.

Sharififar and Rahimi (2015) analyzed the speeches of Obama's and Rouhani's Speeches at UN. They used Halliday’s System Grammar approach to conduct the transitivity analysis of the speeches. They identified the power and ideology in the use of language of both the presidents. The researchers also analyzed the use of personal pronouns in the speeches.

This is an important area of research and could help to understand the certain factors behind use of language. Primarily, present study unveils the stance of a statesman by looking at the language use during his speech at an international forum. Corpus linguistics has paved the way to analyze language in an automated way. Corpus tools and the use of corpus linguistics can be used in the area of social sciences and humanities. No comparable work, on the speeches of statesmen, can be traced in the context of Pakistan. The present study filled the gap in the area of content analysis of speeches by using corpus linguistics methods in Pakistani context.


Nawaz Sharif made two speeches in UNGA; he delivered his first speech was on 27 September 2013 and the second on 26 September 2014. The speeches of Nawaz Sharif were downloaded from the Internet in plain text. Corpus linguistics is an emerging methodology that analyses language as it is used. Corpus-based analysis is regarded as being comparatively more objective and there is scope for a lot more work to be done in this area.

Developments in the field of Corpus linguistics have paved the way for computational analysis of written and spoken texts. It has rapidly gained popularity among the researchers of discourse analysis around the globe. The method is reliable and can be used for analyzing written and spoken corpora. With the help of Key Word In Context (KWIC) researchers can identify and analyze the use of language through word frequencies, parts of speech and semantic clustering in a corpus tool. Corpus tool Wmatrix was used to compare word frequencies, personal pronouns and modal auxiliaries in the two speeches of Nawaz Sharif.

Wmatrix is a modern corpus tool for textual analysis and comparison. It provides web interface to the UCREL Semantic Analysis System (USAS) and CLAWS (the Constituent Likelihood Automatic Word-tagging System) corpus intonation tools. It also provides the Parts of Speech (POS) tagging and the semantic tagging. The user can upload their corpus data and Wmatrix annotated it and it could be viewed in the web browser. The user can upload their data in text form and the tagger will automatically do the word frequency, POS tagging and Semantic tagging.


The speeches were converted into txt file format. The data was uploaded by using online corpus tools Wmatrix. The data was analyzed by using Corpus comparison tool. In the first stage of the analysis the high frequency words found in the speeches. The high frequency words are given in the following table:



Word First Speech Second Speech
Pakistan 30 19
Security 16 10
United Nations 12 5
Peace 12 7
Terrorism 11 4
National 10 3
Development 9 6
Prime Minister 4 0
Needs 4 0
Religion 4 1
Diplomacy 4 1
Palestine 4 1
Resources 4 2
Islam 3 0
Extremism 3 0
Democracy 3 0
Consensus 3 0
Citizens 3 0
Chemical Weapons 3 0
India 3 0
Regional 3 1
Reconciliation 3 1
Entire 3 1
Economy 3 1
Territorial 2 0
Syrians 2 0
Supporter 2 0
Muslims 2 0
Faith 2 0
Kashmir 2 7
Jammu 2 5

The above table shows the word frequency found in the data. Pakistan, Security, peace and terrorism are the high frequency words in both speeches. The second speech was comparatively short. Therefore, the frequency of the words is also low as compared to the first speech. It is important to notice that the words Islam, extremism, democracy, consensus, India, regional, reconciliation, economy, supporter and Muslims are used in the first speech but not found in the second speech. The most important is the used the word Prime Minister. However, it is surprising that the word frequency of Jammu and Kashmir is higher in the second speech. It shows that Nawaz Sharif was taking the conventional position of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue which has been unresolved since the establishment of Pakistan. In column 1 its frequency is 4 but it is zero in the next column. In the first speech Nawaz Sharif used of the word prime minister in the following context:



4 occurrences.
all humility, as the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, for the third time
a message of goodwill from the Prime Minister of India, Dr.Manmohan Singh.
es between our two countries. Prime Minister Singh 's response was positive
am looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here in New York

First, he used the word prime minister for himself and asserted that he is the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Rests of the three occurrences are about the prime minister of India. He used his full name with the title Dr.Manmohan Singh and a message of good will from him. The third occurrence shows Singh’s positive response and the fourth occurrence is about Nawaz Sharif’s expected meeting with Manmohan Singh. But in the second speech Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has not used the phrase “Prime Minister” in his entire speech. One reason may be that his counterpart at that time has shown a hostile and aggressive attitude towards Pakistan. He was not expecting any positive response from Narendra Modi about the possibility of dialogue or possibility of resolving issues between the countries. He was not feeling as comfortable with Mr.Modi as he was with Mr.Manmohan Singh. Therefore, the second speech is different from the first speech in many ways.

In the first speech Nawaz Sharif has used the word ‘Islam’ three times and Muslims two times. But he did not use these words in the second speech.



3 occurrences.
is account, is unfair and unwise. Islam is a religion of peace, compassion
round the world . Terrorism negates Islam's humanistic outlook and noble value
terrorism are enemies of Muslims and Islam itself. Mr. President, Pakistan is



2 occurrences.
are under attack . Stereotyping of Muslims as extremists and terrorists must
separate terrorism are enemies of Muslims and Islam itself. Mr.President,

The above mentioned table shows his view about Islam as religion of peace and terrorists’ actions against the spirit of Islam. The terrorists are the enemies of Muslims and Islam. He also criticized the misrepresentation of Muslims and Islam and emphasized to stop the stereotyping of both by the international community. But in the second speech, he was occupied with other issues and did not talk about Islam and Muslims explicitly.

Kashmir is the bone of contention between India and Pakistan which is the unfinished agenda of partition of India. The UN recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory. The UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April, 1948 (47) states that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through plebiscite. More than six decades have passed but the issue is still unresolved.

Kashmir issue is at the top of the list in the foreign policy of Pakistan. In the first speech Prime Minister of Pakistan used the words Jammu and Kashmir two times but in the second speech he used the word Kashmir for seven times and Jammu for five times.



2 occurrences.
to remain attentive to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and the full realization
Council resolutions. The issue of Jammu and Kashmir was presented to the Sec

In the first speech, he mentioned that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is unresolved for nearly seven decades. But in the second speech he was placing emphasis on the issue of Kashmir. There could be many reasons for using it this way. Firstly, the Indian government was not ready to start dialogues with Pakistan. Secondly, the Kashmir has been the burning issue and four wars have been fought between India and Pakistan on the issue. Any hostile regime in India can impose war on Pakistan on this issue. Thirdly, Kashmir is a sensitive issue and its use may easily give popularity in the public at large. Keeping in view all these facts and figures, Nawaz Sharif emphasized on the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also worth mentioning that Indian governments usually avoid to talk about the issue of Kashmir at international forums. Indian government considers such person who speaks for the right of self-determination of Kashmiri people as a villain.

It is also worth to mention that in the second speech, he did not use the word ‘India’. It shows his disappointment about relation with India and his audience is international community. It shows that the prime minister is more prone towards mediation than direct talks with India.

Use of Personal Pronoun: The use of personal pronouns refers to individualization and identification of the speaker. In the first speech, the prime minister used personal pronoun “I” 22 times. Most of the time he refers to himself. But in this sentence he refers to his supporters as well. “I feel exonerated, as my supporters and  I stood firm in our commitment to democracy in the long years of exile, exclusion and state oppression”. He asserts that he had a full support in his home country and he was the real democrat who faced exile and oppression of Gen. (R) Pervez Musharraf and after long struggle with the support of his people, he restored the democracy in his country. While in the second speech “I” occurs seven times. The difference in frequency shows his assertiveness and confidence in his first speech.

In the first speech, there are 55 occurrences of the personal pronoun “we”. A few examples of which are: “We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue. We can build on the Lahore Accord signed in 1999, which contained a road map for the resolution of our differences through peaceful negotiations. We welcome the agreement reached between the United States and Russia, and supported by other permanent members of the Security Council, to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria. We have offered dialogue to end violence, wean young extremists off extremism, and integrate all segments of our society into the national mainstream”. 

In the first sentence the pronoun ‘we’ refers to Pakistani Government and the people of Pakistan. The second sentence “we” refers to both India and Pakistan. He is reminding Manmohan Singh about the Lahore Accord signed between both countries for the peaceful solution of all the unresolved issues between them. Lahore Accord was signed on 21 February 1999 at Lahore. It was signed by Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpaee. Both the countries agreed on the peaceful settlement of disputed issues between both the nations. The third sentence, ‘we’ refers to the people of Pakistan and the other countries or people who support Syria. In this sentence Muslim world is also included in ‘we’. In the last sentence the Prime Minister showed his political will to eradicate terrorism through dialogue. He was confident to resolve internal and external problems through dialogue.

In the second speech, the word frequency of the personal pronoun “we” is 41. The examples of this are the following: “We were disappointed at the cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks. We cannot draw a veil on the issue of Kashmir, until it is addressed in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet we cannot be oblivious to the emerging security scenarios and buildup of armaments. We too, have the obligation to maintain a robust and reliable deterrence. We want the Council to become more representative”.

The data shows that the use of personal pronoun ‘we’ is less in the second speech which is not very significant if we compare both the speeches. In the first sentence, the Prime minister shows the disappointment of Pakistan on the cancellation of talks with India. In the second sentence, he raises the importance of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. In this sentence, personal pronoun ‘we’ refers to India and international community and asserts that they cannot draw a veil on this issue and it should be resolved in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In the third sentence, he is anticipating the danger of war between the two countries. In the fourth sentence we refers to the government of Pakistan and it legitimizes the nuclear power of the country as the burning issue of Kashmir has been a determining factor for waging a war by India. Therefore, Pakistan has to be strong militarily to defend its border with India. In the last sentence ‘we’ includes all the countries who want equality in representations of different nations in the United Nations and it excludes five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Use of Modal Auxiliaries: The modal auxiliaries show the probability or possibility of an action. These are used to show one’s conviction about doing certain events/tasks in the future and speeches usually have modal auxiliaries to emphasize a point or to persuade others to do something. They include: will, should, must, would, may, might and can. They include negative form like shouldn’t, cannot, to show impossibility of a particular concept or an event. Following diagram shows the probability level of these modal auxiliaries on a cline.



Picture 1.png

In the first speech, the Prime minister used ‘will” 15 times and ‘must’ 10 times. In the second speech, he used ‘will’ 11 times and ‘must’ 5 times. This shows his commitment to resolve the issues under discussion. The use of will shows 90% predictive probability and it shows the conviction and commitment of the speaker in the speeches. It shows him an optimistic person who has will to push others towards the solutions of the issues. In the above diagram must is linked with logical probability. It shows that he is using logical reasoning and emphasizing something that is logically probable. The use of must is also important in this context as it suggests and pushes the community to take steps towards the solution of the burning issues. He seems to be more concerned to engage international community in his first speech. If we analyze the use of ‘will’ and ‘must’ in the second speech, it is evident that it is comparatively low as compared to the first speech. Presumably, Nawaz Sharif was feeling less confident and was not speaking with conviction. There is a clear decline in the use of ‘must’ in the second speech. The voice of Nawaz Sharif is different in the second speech.


Both speeches are not very different in content as nothing has been changed in one year. The major themes of the speeches were identical. The data clearly demonstrate that all the issues were there to be addressed by the international community. The issues were same and the stance of Pakistan was same in both the speeches. Both the speeches address the issue of terrorism, bilateral relations with India, the issue of Kashmir and security issues. In the first speech, the prime minister was more confident in resolving issues at home and abroad. The government of Nawaz Sharif was removed by General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. He won the election in May 2013 and became Prime Minister of Pakistan after a long political struggle. So, he came back in the power with more vigour and enthusiasm. He extensively used personal pronoun “I” and “we” referring to people of Pakistan, government of Pakistan, India, Muslim world and international community. It shows the tendency of Pakistan towards the problems of Muslim world. It also entails that the issue of Kashmir is the issue of Muslim Ummah. He also used modal auxiliary of probability and obligation like ‘will’ and ‘must’ extensively to show his level of confidence to resolve these issues. In the second speech, his use of personal pronouns is comparatively low which demonstrates a reduction in his level of vigour and enthusiasm. But, the use of modal auxiliaries is almost the same and his conviction and hope towards the settlement of the issues remains the same. The prime minister did not discuss the internal issues in the second speech. Apparently, the representatives from India in UNGA were hostile and both the countries needed confidence building measures to move towards the solution of bilateral issues. Contrary to his first speech in which he asserted himself as elected prime minister and the champion of democracy, he did not show himself as true representative of Pakistani people. He did not use word ‘India’ in his second speech and felt threatened of war with India. In the first speech, he wanted to talk to Indian government but in second speech he wanted international community to play a role in resolving the issues between the two countries. India always opposes the third party meditation to resolve the issue of Kashmir. It shows that Nawaz Sharif felt disappointed from the Indian leadership and was looking towards international community for the resolution of Kashmir issue. Though he raised the same issues in both speeches internal and external concerns affected his stance and also brought change in his policy to resolve the issues with India. The most obvious reason behind the change in the attitude of Nawaz Sharif was the political instability in the country and the change of government in India that made him defensive in his stance on bilateral and international issues.


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