02 Nov Donald Trump’s Linguistics
“Donald Trump, linguistically, is unadorned. This is the basics, this is what language was undoubtedly like when it first emerged among people who didn’t have writing”
says John McWorther, professor of linguistics at Columbia University.
Much to his supporters’ delight, Trump isn’t exactly a challenging public speaker.
Over the past few years, he has built his speeches around simplistic, informal language that McWorther qualifies as “oddly adolescent for a senior citizen”.
Trump uses his speech to further establish his position as “alpha male”. For example, “people don’t know”, one of his most commonly used expressions, signals that he’s one step ahead of everyone else. His use of rudimentary vocabulary appeals to a wide array of listeners, and, while his policies can be deemed discriminatory, people whose native language isn’t English have less trouble understanding Trump than other candidates using more complicated speech patterns.
One has to ask, then: even though he is often ridiculed in the media for his speeches, is Donald Trump’s brand of eloquence, or lack thereof, a power move on his part?
In the wake of the 2016 elections, Elsevier published a paper examining the communication styles of both Trump and the other candidates. More specifically, they focused their research on grandiosity, informality and dynamism to assess Trump’s performance.
The results indicated that Trump uses more extravagance and theatrics in his speeches than his competitors, both outside of and within his own political party.
This sets him apart in his field and heightens his popularity. The paper also confirmed that Trump’s low-complexity words correlated positively with his political success, as bringing a campaign to the electorate’s level is key for gaining power.
The reality behind his often-criticized speeches is that citizens from all socio-economic classes and all education levels could identify with and understand him more than any other candidate. In a globalised world, where countries like the United States deal internationally in high level affairs, candidates need to put themselves on par with the average American, at least in the way they speak. This is what made Trump the US 45th American president.
Still, it remains to be seen whether his way of communicating can win him a second term. With media literacy growing, and higher education levels on the rise, the jury is still out – especially after the debacle that was the first debate last week.
“Language Expert: Donald Trump’s Way Of Speaking Is ‘Oddly Adolescent’”, The 11th Hour, MSNBC.
“Explaining Donald Trump via communication style : Grandiosity, informality, and dynamism”, Personality and Individual Differences, Elsevier Ltd