Trump’s Speaking Style
Steven L. Taylor · Sunday, August 21, 2016 · 17 comments
Tara Golshan has an interesting piece at Vox: Donald Trump’s strange speaking style, as explained by linguists which is worth a read.
I will say that it includes a quote that may qualify for Understatement of the Year:
“His speeches are full of non sequiturs,” says Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a Calvin College historian
Of the passages I found interesting, this one struck me as on point (emphases mine):
Many of Trump’s most famous catchphrases are actually versions of time-tested speech mechanisms that salesmen use. They’re powerful because they help shape our unconscious.
Take, for example, Trump’s frequent use of “Many people are saying…” or “Believe me” — often right after saying something that is baseless or untrue. This tends to sound more trustworthy to listeners than just outright stating the baseless claim, since Trump implies that he has direct experience with what he’s talking about. At a base level, Lakoff argues, people are more inclined to believe something that seems to have been shared.
Or when Trump keeps calling Clinton “crooked,” or keeps referring to terrorists as “radical Muslims,” he’s strengthening the association through repetition. He also calls his supporters “folks,” to show he is one of them (though many politicians employ this trick). Trump doesn’t repeat phrases and adjectives because he is stalling for time, Liberman says; for the most part, he’s providing emphasis and strengthening the association.
These are normal techniques, particularly in conversational speech. “Is he reading cognitive science? No. He has 50 years of experience as a salesman who doesn’t care who he is selling to,” Lakoff says. On this account, Trump uses similar methods in his QVC-style pitch of steaks and vodka as when he talks about his plan to stop ISIS.
And this, which strikes me as quite significant, as clearly there are many who find Trump’s speeches and rallies to be empowering:
In other words, when Trump’s audience finishes his sentences for him, the blanks are filled with sentiments that resonate: fears of joblessness, worries about the United States losing its status as a major world power, concerns about foreign terrorist organizations. Trump validates their insecurities and justifies their anger. He connects on an emotional level, Du Mez says.
“For listeners who identify with Trump, there is little they need to do but claim what they’re entitled to,” she says. “No need for sacrifice, for compromise, for complexity. He taps into fear and insecurity, but then enables his audience to express that fear through anger. And anger gives the illusion of empowerment.”
I would encourage a read of the whole piece.
FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Quick Takes, US Politics
About Steven L. TaylorSteven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter
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