George Takei mocks Donald Trump's language, but there might be a method to his madness.
George Takei is known for his role in Star Trek many decades ago and his current presence and activism on social media. With Takei’s liberal views and sense of humor, it comes as no surprise that he would share a post that mocks Republican front-runner Donald Trump, which is what he did on Facebook recently. You can read the post in its full glory below:
As hilarious and spot-on as this fake response from Trump is, it appears that language analysts have actually dissected Trump’s speeches and found that the reason for his popularity may lie in his speaking style.
An analysis of his language indicates that his words and phrasing have a specific appeal to many voters. Mark Yoffe Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, performed a rough comparison of Trump’s speeches to Jeb Bush’s speeches, who has since suspended his campaign. What Liberman found was a startling difference between each of their top 13 most-used words, which gives a huge insight into how Trump reels people of all intellects in. Liberman noted that the majority of Bush’s most-used words had multiple syllables and sounded like words a politician would use; amongst these words were “create,” “forces,” “strategy,” and “government.” In a stark contrast to Bush’s words, Trump’s words were primarily single-syllable words, and his most used word of all is “I,” which isn’t all that shocking. Among his other most-used words were “Trump,” “you,” and “me,” and even his multiple syllable words were simple, like “money” and “China.” This shows that Trump’s watered-down language is actually helpful in attracting those with smaller vocabularies or even those that are just tired of the language of politicians because they feel that it isn’t genuine.
Paired with his simplistic vocabulary in speeches, Trump also has been known to use simple sentence structures too. Instead of using big words and complex explanations to describe his policy plans and beliefs, he gives broad and vague statements such as “We have a real problem” and “It’s just terrible.” This appeals to voters in the same way his small vocabulary does: it’s short, it’s “sweet,” in a manner of speaking, and it’s simple enough for everyone to understand.
This fake response mocking Trump gets so many things right about his method of speaking, but probably the most significant part that another expert on language from Georgetown University points out in her research is Trump’s tendency to sound “incoherent.” Jennifer Sclafani, who studies the construction of political identity through language, says that much of this incoherence stems from the way Trump begins his responses. While most politicians start off using “well” or “so” in order to somewhat divert their answers from the posed questions, Trump often starts off with “I,” and then still doesn’t really answer the question, making the diversion more noticeable. However, this lack of coherence may be in his benefit, as those who support him may not actually know what they’re supporting because he is misleading but remains strong.
Other methods Trump uses to reel in more voters are by saying that people (or numbers) love him and that he loves them back, by practically demanding that people do things, like when he told Jimmy Kimmel to “Look at what happened in Paris” three times in a row, and by acting as though he is letting people in on secrets. When he claims that people love him and vice versa, he is making the point that he has a lot of supporters and connections, which makes it seem as though he can make up for his lack of connections in Congress. As he demands that people remember certain events like Paris, he creates the illusion of command that forces his supporters to follow. Finally, when he acts as though he is letting people in on secrets, like in the fake response when it says “We can times them OR divide them, they don’t tell you that,” he essentially makes it seem as though he will continuously be honest with voters even if he makes it to the White House. This honesty is refreshing for those who don’t trust politicians or believe the country needs the big changes that Trump advocates for.
Though this language certainly hasn’t persuaded all American citizens to vote for Trump, it seems as though there is a method to his madness in speaking and attracting many voters that can relate to this language. Some are saying that this is simply Trump using his salesman and business persona to give people what they want, and that he really isn’t this crazy or incoherent. Whatever the case may be, he seems to have mastered this language that calls to many citizens and it’s likely that this is a primary reason for his popularity, even if voters don’t explicitly know it.
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