Overemphasis | Occurs when speech puts itself on display, exposes or listens to itself, puts on a show. Overemphasis, which can be restrained or theatrical, is produced by making use of a certain number of speech parameters including intonation, articulation, accentuation, rhythm, vocabulary, and spacing.

The French word emphase does not have the same connotations as the English word emphasis. As can be seen on a synthesizer, emphasis is an operation that acts upon amplitude and frequency to modify an audio signal. When discussing breadth, however, emphase,or overemphasis, is the process by which words amplify certain of their characteristics. We can find examples of overemphasis using various sonic (volume, timbre, pitch, length) and linguistic (vocabulary, prosody) parameters.


Overemphasis by accentuation can be found in this statement by actor Laurent Terzieff or in this plea by Jacques Vergès, whose stress on certain syllables, or now and then on certain phonemes, accentuates a tone that places importance on the enunciative situation and intends to match its solemnity. In this televised appearance by Marine Le Pen, overemphasis is used like a highlighter to heavily stress the words “crazy” and “sharia.” In the same way, Fabrice Luchini shows us how accentuation can make a word overemphatic (by insisting on the “gr” of grelot [bell]), while others, like breaks in volume, changes in output or even drops in levels of consideration, can produce overemphasis. Overemphasis by accentuation is typically found in advertising utterances or movie trailers, which draw their power of conviction from it. Similarly, it can be seen functioning as an almost pedagogical tool in this nature documentary voiceover or with this host reminding viewers of a TV game show’s rules.

Carried away

When baroque director Eugene Green recites an excerpt of Bérénice, his speech is carried by a certain momentum, one that seems to underscore the importance of speaking beyond what is being uttered. In a sense, this momentum is what leads to the hyper-pronunciation and overexposure which characterize his accent (as can be heard with this grandfather telling a story, this little girl using the rhetorical codes of fairytales, or with this André Malraux speech, whose tone calls for such loftiness that certain sentences or the simple mention of a bathroom end up sounding more or less insane).

We can see this same gap between content and tonal momentum in a statement by Léon Blum. This gap is required in theatrical speech even when not used for dramatic effect, as can notably be heard here with Sarah Bernhardt. One could imagine that this recording, which dates from 1912, gives us a glimpse of the diction typical of the time. However, this kind of overemphasis in theatrical speech can still be heard today, as this excerpt of a play directed by Marc François, where overemphasis seems to be measured according to the dramatic effect desired, shows us.

Moreover, this process is a formal characteristic shared by theater and political speech (a claim we can verify by listening to this statement by Dominique de Villepin or, more openly, this activist speaking for the Modem party, or even the announcement of Kim-Jong Il’s death, which has everything of a staging about it).

Food mills

This way of projecting one’s speech into space so as to surpass the limits of one’s audience is frequently associated with prosodic momentum, to a kind of rhythmic carrying away, as can be heard in this presentation of a television show by Frédéric Mitterrand, in a long reply by Gérard Depardieu, or in the slam poetry of Julien Delmaire, whose tone changes as he begins his performance. In this last example, we can hear the specific moment when everyday speech shifts into poetic verse. Although there is no particularly notable change in accentuation or vocal volume in this Maria Casarès recital, her diction does become more concentrated, more stripped back, such that the care put into her pronunciation and the stereotypical intonation she takes on are tasked with giving power and singularity to her words. This way of drawing attention to what she is saying gives an emphatic push to speech that is little more than a whisper and almost completely lacking breadth (see also Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais and Ecoute mon grand).

Loss of control

Loss of control happens when a speaker takes the plunge and lets their words overtake the spectacular intentions that may have led to their outburst in the first place. Such is the case when the Dictator dramatizes his anger to the point of temporarily losing his voice, the performative aspect of the outburst presenting his actions as outstanding and attempting to give them an extraordinary quality. On this level, when overemphasis by increase in vocal volume is pushed to such an extent that it tests the speaker’s voice, loss of timbre becomes a visceral process (see Monsieur Hollande and I found nirvana). Everything is increased, as if the speaker did not have enough vocal cords to speak with and was forced to gather organic resources more deeply within themselves (like this conductor whose instructions are louder than the orchestra). Overemphasis can also take place in one’s words rather than voice, but still stands within this same paradoxical desire to be freed from any kind of self-control. It can be a sign of defiance or serve to underscore one’s frankness, or it can aim to give value to untimely bravery.

These kinds of games can have an evolving nature. If overemphasis takes root over time, loss of control becomes an unstable process. Klaus Kinski’s outburst, for example, can mark his anger, or perhaps his desire to find it. This process can of course imply other emotions, like enthusiasm (Ça vous prend au ventre and Now My body is in tumulto) or hyper-fervor. And when a speaker loses their self-control, it is common to hear overemphasis lead to emptiness. One’s argumentative power thus becomes much less certain, allowing one to more or less willingly nuance what they are saying by adding distress to indignation (I’m not happy with you and Vous, ronds de cuir). Loss of control can happen when reaching a climax, giving the outburst a parodic quality.

  • Absolument délirant

    Marine Le Pen, excerpt of a radio interview, 2008.

  • Avec une brutalité énorme

    Speech of a union leader after an action at the Ministry of Labor, 2019.

  • Avida Dollars

    Salvador Dali, excerpt of the Flexi disc L'Apothéose du dollar, 1971.

  • Bonne nouvelle

    Excerpt of a Catholic sermon, excerpt of the show La Messe, France Culture, 2009.

  • C'est pas comparable à rien

    Maïté, excerpt of the show La Cuisine des Mousquetaires, FR3, 1987.

  • Ça vous prend au ventre

    Priscilla Pizzato, excerpt of the show La Grande Table, 2010.

  • Ces nuances et ces surnuances

    Helios Azoulay, excerpt of the show Ce soir ou jamais, France 3, 2009.

  • Cette goutte de sueur qui perle

    Interview with storyteller Gabriel Kinsa, excerpt from documentary La voix en quelques éclats, Pierre Boulay and Claire Parnet, 2013.

  • Chauve-souris fantôme

    Papy Boris, personal recording, 1990s.

  • Contentez votre gloire

    Eugene Green, excerpt of a reading of Bérénice, France Culture, 2000.

  • De abdoer twist

    Excerpt of the show Tommy Teleshopping, Dutch television, 2013.

  • Discours de Hynkel

    Charlie Chaplin, excerpt of the film The Dictator, 1940.

  • Double Rainbow

    Guy "Bear" Vasquez, YouTube video, 2010.

  • Ein trainer ist nicht ein idiot

    Giovanni Trapattoni, Bayern München e.V. Fußball-Club coach, excerpt of a press conference, 1998.

  • Entre ici, Jean Moulin

    André Malraux, excerpt of a speech made to mark the transfer of Jean Moulin’s ashes to the Panthéon, 1964.

  • Espahor ledet ko uluner

    Mary-Ann Duganne Glicksman, excerpt of a reading of Espahor ledet ko uluner by Guy de Cointet, Centre Pompidou, 2013.

  • Et le cul ouvert

    Serge Pey, excerpt of the recording L'Enfant archéologue, 2001.

  • Faites du bruit

    Richard Darbois, jingle for DJ, video posted on Youtube, 2000s.

  • Gourmand comme une vieille chatte

    André Tubeuf, excerpt from the radio show André Tubeuf Mémoire, France Musique, 2021.

  • Heureusement, il y a Renaud

    Frédéric Mitterrand, excerpt of the show Du côté de chez Fred, Antenne 2, 1989.

  • I cried my eyes out

    Mariah Carey, excerpt of an award speech at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, 2010.

  • I found nirvana

    Jill Bolte Taylor, excerpt of a TED talk, 2007.

  • I hear a sound of victory

    Paula White, extrait d’un prêche en soutien au dépouillement lors de l’élection présidentielle étasunienne, 2020. 

  • I'm not happy with you

    Dialogue between parents and a child, YouTube, 2013.

  • J'ai appris hier

    Antonin Artaud, excerpt of the radio performance Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, recorded for the RDF (but never broadcast), 1947.

  • J'ai un amour pour le verbe

    Excerpt of an interview with a Modem activist, personal recording by David Christoffel, 2007.

  • J'enrage

    Senator Jack Ralite, excerpt from a speech at a rally, 2014.

  • Je suis le train

    Sylvie Noachovitch, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2007.

  • Je t'aime

    Sylvie Caspar, excerpt of Lettre d'amour by Silvain Gire, Arte Radio, 2004.

  • Jesteś mężem stanu

    Reciting of a poem by a child at official inauguration, Poland, 2011

  • L'assiette jaune

    Stefan Rotenberg, excerpt of the show Top Chef, 2013.

  • L'Occident doutait

    Fabrice Luchini and Alain Finkielkraut, excerpt of the show Répliques, France Culture, 2011.

  • La douce Anaïs

    Présentation lors d’un défilé canin à la SPA, 2018

  • La joie !

    Excerpt from an evangelist preaching, 2019. 

  • La mort

    Jacques Lacan, excerpt of a conference held at the University of Louvain, 1972.

  • La mort de Kim Jong-il

    Announcement of Kim Jong-Il’s death on North Korean Central Television, 2011.

  • La nuit des astres nus

    René Ghil, excerpt of Chant dans l'espace, Les Archives de la parole, 1913.

  • La poésie c'est mon affaire

    Gérard Depardieu, excerpt of the film Uranus by Claude Berry, 1990.

  • La soupe à la tomate

    Marc Labrèche and Anne Dorval, excerpt of the series Le Cœur a ses raisons by Marc Brunet, TVA, 2000s.

  • Lala land

    Jill Bolte-Taylor, excerpt of a Ted Talk, 2007.

  • Le coup de foudre du mépris

    Jean-Louis Bory, excerpt of the show Le Masque et la Plume, France Inter, 1963.

  • Le lac

    Maria Casarès, excerpt of Les 25 plus beaux poèmes de la langue française, 1960s.

  • Le mot grelot me rend fou

    Alain Finkielkraut and Fabrice Luchini, excerpt of the show Répliques, France Culture, 2011.

  • Le Théâtre-Texte

    Laurent Terzieff, excerpt of the show La Nuit des Molières, France 2, 1988.

  • Lera

    Video about creating a declaration of love, YouTube, 2013.

  • Les jours s'en vont, je demeure

    Guillaume Apollinaire, recitation of Le pont Mirabeau, Les Archives de la parole, 1913.

  • Les singes écuyers

    Circus advertisement, personal recording, 2014.

  • Let's get ready to rumble

    Michael Buffer, introduction to the fight of George Foreman vs. Shannon Briggs, 1997.

  • Lift weight !

    Weightlifting parody, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2012.

  • Ma3ame3 A3maki

    Poetry reading on Egyptian television, 2012.

  • Mais les Gibis pourront-ils ?

    Claude Piéplu, excerpt of the cartoon Les Shadoks by Jacques Roussel, 1968.

  • Malou Bomboka M Midi

    Advertisement for the opening of a restaurant, video posted on YouTube, 2017

  • Mēmā kliedzienā

    Excerpt form an anti-abortion video, Latvia, 2009

  • Moi j'évite les miroirs

    Richard Fontana, excerpt of La Nuit juste avant les forêts by Bernard-Marie Koltès, staged by Jean-Luc Boutté, 1981.

  • Mon côté sportif

    Jean-Marie Bigard, excerpt of the comedy sketch “Le lâcher de salopes,” 2001.

  • Monsieur Hollande

    Dominique de Villepin, excerpt of a speech at the French National Assembly, 2006.

  • Now my body is in tumulto

    Roberto Begnini, speech made upon receiving the Oscar for best actor, 1999.

  • On joue tous les ballons

    A rugby coach showing support before a game, 2008.

  • On va faire le tô

    Excerpt from a cooking recipe, video posted on Youtube, 2019. 

  • One land, one legend

    Trailer for the film Mysterious City of Gold, 2013.

  • Par madame Sarah Bernhardt

    Sarah Bernhardt reading a monologue from Jean Racine’s Phèdre, 1902.

  • Piano!

    Arturo Toscanini, rehearsal excerpt, NBC, 1950.

  • Pizza Hut

    Advertisement for a pizza chain, unknown date.

  • Pour toi plus de sommeil

    Marc François, excerpt of the performance Macbeth by Marc François, 1996.

  • Quoi qu’il arrive

    Bernard-Henri Levy, excerpt of a message video, 2009.

  • Search for a super croc'

    Steve Irwinn, excerpt of the wildlife documentary Crocodile Hunter, Discovery Channel, 2009.

  • Si j'ai agi

    Léon Blum, excerpt of a speech at Luna Park in Paris, 1936.

  • Siplaît monsieur

    Litany of a beggar, personal recording, 2019.

  • Skazhi-ka dyadya

    Recitation of a poem, video posted on YouTube, 2018

  • The most beautiful song in the world

    David Attenborough, excerpt of the wildlife documentary Bird Sounds from the Lyre Bird, BBC, 2007.

  • Ton ami magique

    Recording of the “Chien Culbuto” toy’s voice, 2010.

  • Trembler devant le fantôme

    Gerrit Graham, excerpt of a bonus DVD from The Phantom of the Paradise by Brian De Palma, 1974.

  • Un croc de boucher

    Dominique de Villepin, excerpt of a statement to press just outside of the Clearstream trial, 2009.

  • Une mange-merde

    Myriam Marseille, excerpt of a YouTube video, 2010.

  • Une sorte de manifeste

    Brigitte Fontaine, excerpt of the nightly news hour, France 3, 2009.

  • Vous, ronds de cuir

    Francis Lalanne, excerpt of the show Avis de recherche, TF1, 1990.

  • X’emozzjoni

    Joseph Muscat, excerpt from a campaign speech, Malta, 2017.

  • Yaman

    Extrait de l’épisode 1644 de Samhini, série turque doublée en arabe dialectal marocain, 2019

  • Želim si

    Teaser for a personal development seminar in Slovenia, YouTube, 2016


Senator Jack Ralite, excerpt from a speech at a rally, 2014.