Telling It As It Is, Mr. President? The Issue of Donald Trump’s Supposed ‘Word Salad’

Successful communication asserts a common sense when it comes to social interaction. This is especially crucial in the face of the power relation between politicians and their followers. It is a common skill of politicians to be able to properly utilize communication strategies as to effectively convey a message or make use of tactics to influence followers. It can therefore be asserted that an aptness in effective use of politeness and impoliteness strategies[1] is necessary in political discourse.

The proper use of politeness and impoliteness strategies is closely tied to the language tool of manipulation (Slavova 2012: 170). Political discourse resembles a constant power struggle as well as a cooperation between those who hold power and those who the ones in power rely on to maintain it. Therefore, it is of some significance for the one in power to properly communicate with his or her supporters. This double-sided power struggle, which entails on the one hand, to assert dominance and on the other hand, to maintain positive relations, asserts a high level of aptness when it comes to proper manipulation of social interaction (Slavova 2012: 170-171).

President Donald Trump’s use of language has been subject of investigation as well as criticism. Many think that his language style is uncalculated, with a large amount of people even calling it “word salad” (Lakoff 2016). His voters have praised him for always “tell[ing] it as it is” (BBC News 2016), thereby painting a picture of sincerity. But how sincere is the recently-elected president? George Lakoff writes in a blog post on his website that “[e]very time someone in the media claims his discourse is word salad it helps Trump by hiding what he is really doing.” (2016)

This research paper aims to dispute the assumption that President Trump’s use of language is uncalculated by focussing on the utilization of politeness and impoliteness strategies in relation to political discourse, as outlined and categorized by Brown & Levinson, and Culpeper. Subject of analysis is a television interview held by ABC’s David Muir with President Trump. The analysis is an attempt to provide evidence to expose President Trump’s strategic use of politeness and impoliteness strategies to assert his power over his critics and create a false sense of balance between him and his followers.

[1] as defined by Brown & Levinson (1987) and Culpeper (1996)


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About AnekaB

Literature, Philosophy, Culture
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One Response to Telling It As It Is, Mr. President? The Issue of Donald Trump’s Supposed ‘Word Salad’

  1. Lois Roelofs says:

    An important research for today. Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

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