Understanding Trump’s Use of Language

Fascinating examination of how Trump uses language

George Lakoff

Note: This is a follow-up to my previous piece, ‘Understanding Trump’. Please read that piece first.

The Responsible Reporter’s Problem

Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:

His unscripted speaking style, with its spasmodic, self-interrupting sentence structure, has increasingly come to overwhelm the human brains and tape recorders attempting to quote him.
Trump is, simply put, a transcriptionist’s worst nightmare: severely unintelligible, and yet, incredibly important to understand.
Given how dramatically recent polls have turned on his controversial public utterances, it is not hyperbolic to say that the very fate of the nation, indeed human civilization, appears destined to come down to one man’s application of the English language — and the public’s comprehension of it. It has turned…

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Author: qcexaminer

None of your damned business.

11 thoughts on “Understanding Trump’s Use of Language”

  1. Lakoff is the progressive “nut” that came up with “you didn’t build that” bull’oney.

    ” I have found that he is very careful and very strategic in his use of language. The only way I know to show this is to function as a linguist and cognitive scientist and go through details.”
    He is right on that. And I think reporters mostly know what he means, but the intentionally twist what he says. The NeverTrump types routinely would blame Trump when they twisted his words 180 degrees. They believe conservatives have to be SO careful in wording, that a malicious MFM can’t twist what he says. But that is BS, they twist everything, and being cowed into careful, “never break PC rules” speech is why the self proclaimed “conservative guardians of truth” always back down and lose.

    Lakoff at least recognizes Trump is effectively communicating. But he tries to claim he is spewing propaganda. I didn’t read it all, but for example, on guns, the left does indeed in time want to confiscate guns, at least to the point Europe has done it. So Lakoff is the one playing games with language, labeling “second amendment” a dog whistle for “ultra-conservatives”.

    ‘The Second Amendment has been reinterpreted by contemporary ultra-conservatives as the right of individual citizens to bear contemporary arms (e.g., AK-47’s), either to protect their families against invaders or to change a government by armed rebellion if that government threatens what they see as their freedoms.”

    Lakoff assumes 2A was for single shot rifles for fighting the British. He is the one using the “dog whistle words” .. namely AK-47, which scares his liberal audience.

    Strip out all the progressive BS and he might at least reveal to people what many of us long knew … Trump communicates very carefully. Americans should indeed be willing to fight in order to “live free or die” as the NH license plate says. The crime cartel in DC indeed demands we “stand down” as they sell us out to foreign nations. We DID build that … not government.

    Anyway … Lakoff should stick to his linguistic review, and not try to insert his commie doctrine into our constitution, or into why we deplorables voted for him. Trump actually did build … but Hillary has been a grifter fro 45 years, corrupt to the core, using position in government to sell power, which we call treason and sedition. That is the real government versus private sector analysis these commies blithely ignore.

  2. Another useful expression in “Understanding Trump Speak”, is to take him seriously, but not literally. MFM will take him literally, but not seriously. (so they pull half sentences out of context, to get their desired result)

    MFM does the opposite for Obama, always finding a way to interpret his nonsense as brilliance. Or just ignoring completely … you can keep your doctor, premiums will be reduced $2500/year. … But Trump accepts a call from Taiwan and he is about to cause nuclear war.

  3. here is another incite into Lakoff

    ” I guess the temptation was too great to resist abusing this dual role, because he makes a habit — a career, actually — of putting on his scientist hat and then making partisan statements, which he passes off as impartial facts. I can only imagine that he thinks he’s getting away with it, but the gambit is so glaringly obvious that it makes you almost embarrassed for the guy.”

    They say SJWs always lie, and SJWs always project. I think your Lakoff article is him projecting his own deceit onto Trump. “Zombie” explains that well. (he is not at PJ now, but posts at Ace of Spades).


    Have a hunter near the house now … last weekend for shotgun.

  4. meant to add, he is not using an AK-47 … so funny they think an AK is so scary deadly, that we should only be allowed little shotguns or 30-30 rifles. ha

  5. I thought even for a leftwinger Lakoff’s analysis was interesting and astute. It surprised me when he said early on “[S]o far as I can tell, [Trump] is simply using effective discourse mechanisms to communicate to his audience I have found that he is very careful and very strategic in his use of language.”

    I figured he was trying to explain Trump-talk to his leftist homies rather than to people who already have figured out what he is doing. MSM is so used to listening to politicians who are so careful and deliberate about what they say and how they say it, they are freaking out about his use of language.

    We’ve never had a prez like Trump, at least in my lifetime, so even though I wasn’t a supporter and didn’t vote for him, I still think it will be fascinating to see what he will do and how he will do it.

    I’ve found Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy, an interesting source for insight into DT. He predicted early on that Trump would win based on persuasion theory. His blog is here:

    Whatever happens, my guess is that it will never be boring!

  6. “I figured he was trying to explain Trump-talk to his leftist homies rather than to people who already have figured out what he is doing. “
    sure, but he adds his propaganda in. His AK47 dog whistle is for his leftist readers. The zombie link above unwinds how they (with Lakoff being one of their tools, Hillary another) use such “brainwashing” for their useful idiots. the Marxist PC religion is one big cult, but well funded and planned. Cultural Marxism is their strategy, not their true belief.

    Cruz used the term “DC Cartel”. Hillary was the one that made the direct connections between the corrupt big money and the government actions they got for their money. High on that list were Russians, Saudis, Muslim Brotherhood, China … and her open borders plan was pushing us toward a global cartel, where they would forever escape our laws.
    “They” were already taking over police forces using the BS disparate impact ruling, which is the fake way of making PDs racist. Hillary’s biggest boss was probably Soros, who works at tearing down Western Civilization. Hillary was THE main person behind the Libya disaster, (regime change, not just Benghazi) and the invasion of Europe by millions of combative Muslims was part of their plan to “globalize” Europe.

    Brexit was followed by Trump, and yesterday Italy made voted NO, which may mark the end of the Eurozone experiment, designed to tear apart those nation states. This was “corrupt establishment” versus sovereign state, and thankfully people were fed up with open corruption. Trump will do a lot of good things, but the debt and corruption and inflated markets don’t just disappear.

    The media will attack Trump with lies. Bloomberg TV supposedly does serious business, but on the Taiwan phone call they say .. so is Trump just ignorant, or was this him being thin skinned and dangerous. Their false premise will always be his is a bumbling fool. But he had met with Kissinger and others, and this was planned.
    Many are saying “thank God we will have a president that will NOT bow to all nations just to appease them”.

    a president Hillary could have ended US, perfectly willing to call American patriots deplorable racists/bigots, and to punish us. They will not go down without MSM screaming accusations at every turn, or calmly pushing their false narrative assumptions (e.g. “is Trump being crazy, or stupid?” Because if he goes against PC, those are the only two choices they can imagine)”. Trump has seasoned people that want us back on track, and media will fabricate their narrative of hate. THAT will be just be cover. The crazy and anti-America is on their side.

    Dilbert guy is good …

  7. You know I really wanted to vote for an outsider candidate, Trump had the most potential to offer. Potential does not translate actuality. And in the real world Clinton was going to win Illinois no matter how I voted. So I voted for Trump, despite any misgivings I had. The alternative was HRC and her narcissistic agendas. Scary. Still I got into a couple of lengthy verbal sparring events with former High School classmates. I explicitly explained I am not sold on Trump but I am willing to give him a chance as a possible outsider. I attended his rally in Davenport and he does speak in an unusual style and manner dissimilar to the suck off the taxpayer teats spit and polished politicians rolled off the assembly lines of modern elitist colleges. The one thing nearly all of the media never commented about, while they were busy condemning his speech, was his speech patterns actually do fit into a modern society that worships tweets over the more verbose forms of societal communications. As towards his vulgarisms, offensive yes, more offensive than much of the modern entertainment industries or the mainstream media when off camera, both both which adore HRC and pushed the victory balloons toward the stratosphere, no. Not even close, vulgarity is rampant among those industries especially the entertainment industries. And as to most of Trumps speaking mistakes, they fit right along with the accepted analogy of the common construction workers that he rubbed elbows with while getting filthy rich. The thing is you live in an arena you tend to speak and even think similar to those whom you tromp through the mud alongside. Maybe you could say Trump tromped.

  8. Excellent comment—I especially liked your observation about how DT’s speech patterns fit modern usage. I would take it even further and say he speaks as you would to family and friends–sometimes taking detours to make another point, sometimes rambling trying to get your thoughts to gel. Your family and friends know where you’re going and what you are trying to say by using a sort of shorthand—elites, Dems and MSM had no clue and decided he was just stupid–or Hitler, or something.

    Like you, my vote in TX wasn’t going to make a damned bit of difference one way or the other even though the usual suspects were predicting (again!) that TX would turn Blue. I disliked both candidates and thought neither were appropriate POTUS material so I wrote in Evan McMullin, which I now regret, since post-election he has turned pompous and screechy peddling the DT is a Putin tool nonsense. Sheesh!

    But now I’m just waiting to see what will happen since we’ve never had a prez like Trump—the next 4 years should be a hoot!

  9. It will be interesting. Maybe good. Maybe bad. Maybe a little bit of both. (A quote stolen from Peter Quill aka Star Lord of “Guardians of the Galaxy”). That said, I am not a fan of the three branches of government being controlled by one party. It gives the political egos free reign on committing acts of terror. We saw that with the Democrat Parties drunken rave during the first two years of Obama. Thanks to that drunken rave we now have a 2000 page monstrosity known as Obamacare screwing up the lives of USAmericans across the nation. Now with the Republicans in power they will attempt to destroy, what in reality needs destruction, Obamacare. But since they have control of the Senate, Congress and the White House they will most likely enter into their own personal drunken rave and dissect it in a manner where a bad situation becomes even worse. It goes back to an old adage my paternal grandmother loved to use – Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. I suspect life will be ugly for a lot of citizens during the Trump reign as POTUS, not as much because Trump is the head but because, just as the Democrat Party were in the catbird seat in 2008, the Republicans are now sitting on the same perch with revenge in their eyes. Perhaps the only saving grace could be Trump will probably fight as much with Republicans as he will with Democrats. A humorous consideration is that for my entire lifetime POTUS candidates have attempted to paint themselves as a man that could cross lines to get things done – not Red, Not Blue but a Purple candidate. The Press and voters have wished for such a person. In Trump I actually think they have that individual! And half the nation can’t stand him. The political that is his adversary can’t stand him. The political Party he adopted doesn’t really like him either. Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. ROFLMAO!!!!!!!

    I wouldn’t lose much sleep that your White Knight Candidate turned out to be Sir Mordred all dressed in Gold Armor Splendor. Most politicians (hell, who knows, maybe all politicians) turn to the dark side after a few years in the game. I used to think Harold Ford Jr. and Al Goracle were something to get excited about. Both disappointed me bigtime. They sold out their souls to the Party System, or maybe they were just finally exhibiting their true colors. I always thought the Goracle was the best hope for the Democrat party until he turned all psycho and morphed into the Global Climate Prophet. 😦

  10. I don’t think there will be much danger of One Party Batsh*t Crazy Mania like the Dems in ’09 since there is a healthy #NeverTrump faction of GOPers in Congress. The Dynamic Duo of McCain-Graham are already making noise about opposing some of DTs cabinet picks although ultimately they might cave, but still, who knows?

    Voting for McMullin was the first time since ’80 that I had not voted for either a D or R candidate for prez. In the Ford v. Carter debacle, like this year, I thought both were completely unacceptable, so I voted for the Communist guy–whoever they were running that year, as a protest vote. Previously I had always voted R or D.

    And speaking of Nixon’s VP, I’m so old I remember watching Nixon do his Sock It To Me? bit on Laugh-in on tv–on the original show, not re-runs. 😀

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