By: Savannah Smith | 04-26-2017 | News
Photo credit: Revision3 | Flickr

Language Experts Befuddled by Trump Talk

It is clear that the Trump administration is working hard and looking very determined to fulfill campaign promises. But since the executive department is not working by its lonesome but also needs the cooperation of Congress, and at times also had to contend with opposition from the courts, some campaign promises may have been reshaped. Deadlines have to be understandably reset. If there's one thing, however, that both Trump supporters and critics can unusually agree on- it is that Trump's unique speech style has not changed. From the campaign trail to the White House and his constant tweets, the style and tone of the talks have remained very much "Trump-like".

The Associated Press ( AP) describes Trump's trademark speech is "full of rambling, aside-filled bursts of simple but definitive words, laden with self-congratulatory bravado and claims that have fact-checkers working overtime, all dispatched from mind to lips in such record time it seemingly bypasses any internal filter." Trump's speech style and pattern have sent linguists, analysts, scholars and laymen alike trying to understand the man and his language.

It is important to remember how it all started. President Trump first caught the attention of the American masses, in large part, due to the fact that he did sound very different from traditional or mainstream politicians. He definitely did not sound like then President Obama, or Hillary Clinton, and certainly not like Bernie Sanders. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania said that previous presidential speech has been ones that were crafted speeches. She said presidents in the past prepared before their speeches and press conferences, and that they have stock answers ready to give. Trump broke such tradition and practice. He never had to subscribe to the mold of " focus-group-tested, carefully-selected words".

The AP also noted some favored tactics in Trump's manner of speaking. Word choice is said to be typically simple. AP said that to Trump, "things are terrible or in incredible, best or worst". They observed too that asides are frequently used. Repetition is rampant. They noticed that when Trump wants to get his point across, he says it again and again. There are also those nonsequiturs or unrelated ramblings to a particular topic being discussed. Paul Breen, a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster in England said that the repetition is meant to build up patterns of trust with the listeners, repetition of "you know". For Breen, he thinks there may be an actual method in what others portray only as Trump's madness.

Trump for his part has suggested that there's method to his word choice, too, that the simple words he opts to use can be far more effective than the flowery eloquence the public may have been used to from past presidents. Trump himself defended that he went to an Ivy League school. He said he is very highly educated. He knows words, and that he has the best words.

Trump's recent interview with AP is a good study for analysts and linguistics. Du Mez, chair of the history department at Calvin College said Trump's remarks in the AP interview are full of "verbal intensifiers". That means the generous use of " very, very" and " many, many" or the unusual "super duper". Du Mez said that he does not know of any president who has ever used ' super-duper' in his rhetoric before. Even if the President is being mocked for his choice of elementary words, Du Mez said that in terms of rhetoric, "you want a simple grade level.That's a more effective way to communicate.

Trump's liking for the use of superlatives was noted by Eric Acton, a linguist at Eastern Michigan University. Trump's favorites in the superlatives area include "biggest", "toughest", and "strongest". And of course, there's his all-time favorite that he even anchored his campaign slogan on it: "great".

John Baugh, a linguist at Washington University, said Trump's manner of speaking can vary with the setting. The presidential talks can also be categorized into three groups: spontaneous speeches; scripted, carefully-delivered addresses; and tweets. The scripted speeches are somehow similar to the 'presidential norm', and this was seen with his address to a joint session of Congress in February. The most bombastic talk is delivered in Trump's spontaneous speeches or with his tweets. Baugh observed that in all these, Trump's style of speaking is associated with tough New Yorkers, those working class men. He said that those guys are not only plain-spoken but they're tough guys.

One said that Trump speaks like a salesman, and that "he's telling you that the Trump brand is a good brand, that everyone likes the Trump brand". David Beaver, a linguist at the University of Texas at Austin said that Trump's speech style mirrors the tactics of advertisers, going with an emotional type of persuasion over rationality. He said that means graphic imagery stirred by vivid words, and language more common in the streets than of statesman.

What these experts may be missing out on or not giving as much emphasis on is the fact of Trump's determined goal to speak to his base, the forgotten and abandoned Americans left neglected by the establishment, and to make them understand and be inspired by the thought that he is not just speaking to them, but working for them.

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2 Comment/s
Anonymous No. 2543 2017-04-26 : 16:09

He purposely speaks like an average burger because he knows most of us are dumb hicks. It makes people feel like he's "one of us" and not a part of the global cabal.

Anonymous No. 2547 2017-04-26 : 20:58

Yep. Anon is right. Also, using big words doesn't mean you're smarter. If you can convey your ideas in a few sentences, you aren't as stupid as those pompous college grads that can't even get a job after years of warming a chair.

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