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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Lawrence Kuznar; Professor Farah Combs


Department of Anthropology; Department of International Language and Culture Studies


The goal of this study is to determine what makes the Islamic State (ISIS) persuasive from an anthropological linguistic perspective by comparing the prosody (patterns of rhythm and sound) of a well-known ISIS spokesman, Abu Muhammed al-Adnani, and that of a well-known moderate Sunni cleric, Sheikh Adnan Ibrahim. Specifically, pitch, intensity (loudness) and duration of words are compared between the speakers in order to identify prosodic features that may appeal to ISIS supporters vs. moderate Sunni Muslims. ISIS is a terrorist organization that diverges from major forms of Islam (Sunni and Shia) in its jihadist ideologies (among many other variables), while Sheikh Adnan Ibrahim represents a thoroughly distinct ideology as a follower of the most prominent form of Islam, Sunni Islam that preaches against terrorism. Two samples of oratory from each speaker have been studied by extracting prosodic markers, using the linguistic software Praat.. The syllabic and lexically segmented data has then been tested utilizing empirical methods to statistically analyze correlations between prosodic markers of each individual speaker. Results have led to the identification of divergence in prosodic markers between speakers—specifically in duration and intensity. Al-Adnani’s rate of speech is much lower than Sheikh Adnan Ibrahim. Essentially, al-Adnani speaks much slower than Adnan Ibrahim. Further, al-Adnani speaks significantly louder than Adnan Ibrahim according to the derived mean intensity value for each speaker. Finally, results for coefficient of variation of rhythm reveal surprisingly similar values—both speakers are utilizing a similar rhythmic pattern.


Anthropology | Modern Languages

Prosody Markers as Phonetic Correlates for Persuasive Language in ISIS Speech