Trump-ish, or Maybe Trump-an-ese? I’m Not Really Sure At This Point.

Usually this is a blog focused on photos and some words, but precious few. Sometimes its focused on the things that actually happen to me and rarely it is focused on words and few photos. I try to never take a stand on anything up here but I had to on Donald Trump. That entry didn’t go viral like I wanted. Unanswered prayers.

Anyway, in my real actual life I’m a language teacher and I also have a piece of paper at home that says I’m a linguist. Just like Howard Wolowitz has a piece of paper that says he has a masters in engineering from MIT, I have a piece of paper from not as prestigious of an institution as MIT that says I’m a linguist.

So its time to use that piece of paper. A lot of people have been analyzing Donald Trump in the recent days in from many different angles. I decided to analyze him from a different angle. I’m going to analyze his language from the point of view of a linguist. Now this is arm chair linguistics. Frankly I’m too lazy to bring out the heavy duty linguistics armor.

So for Donald Trump, I’m going to analyze his choice of language, tenses, turn taking frequency and general position in the conversation. For Melania, I will analyze the number of errors she makes in a short conversation and trace the source of those errors. I’ll stay firmly away from the political in both cases.

So here’s a picture of our new first couple. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Oops, broke a rule. Either way:


Yeah, I love the Snapchat. What’s it to you?  Not to mention, it means I took this photo.  Sorta.  Just so the Trump organization doesn’t immediately sue me, this is a picture I took of a photo on my computer screen that I used a Snapchat filter on.  Yeah.

First up we have Melania Trump, nee Knavs of the Jamaica Estate Trumps. Lest she be confused with some other Trumps.

Here’s a snippet of her conversation with a reporter that I transcribed:

Its amazing what’s going on. We’re having fun. I like to keep life as normal as possible for my son Barron. I’m a full time mom and I decided not to be in the campaign so much, but I support my husband 100 percent. I grew up in Slovenia. I went to school there and I studied design. Then I moved to Milan and Paris to live there. I had successful modeling career. I came to New York 1996.

How many languages do you speak?

I speak few languages.

Tell me about your mother.

She’s with a lot of fashion and style. She was in fashion industry for a long time.

My analysis:

Melania speaks in very long utterances. Her sentences are mostly clear, but she makes some mistakes that are common to second language speakers. Leaving the “s” off the third person singular is a common developmental error, but in other snippets of conversation that I decided not to focus on, Melania does not leave it off. She does, like all second language speakers have a little trouble with prepositions. She says that she decided not to be “in” the campaign so much, which is an understandable string of words, but not exactly correct. She makes several other errors with prepositions as she goes along. She says her most was “with” a lot fashion and style. Prepositions give all second language speakers a lot of trouble since they used differently in each language and have no fixed rules in English. Having trouble with prepositions is common with second language speakers, no matter how long a person has been speaking a language.

Melania also has a few missed articles here and there. Slovenian, her native language, like a lot of other Slavic languages, does not have articles. Every grammatical element that a target language does not have requires a lot more effort to master. In Melania’s case, her second language, English, has articles, but her first language that she uses as a base for her second language does not have them, making mastery of them particularly difficult.

For Melania, I recommend studying phrasal verbs and some review of articles.

And now for the Donald.  Oops, that’s an overgeneralization error!!!!!

Interview transcript:

Donald Trump

Its enormous. I’ve done a lot of big things, but it is so big. Its so enormous.


Hillary called you. Tell us about that phone call.

Donald Trump:

So Hillary called and it was a lovely call. She couldn’t have been nicer. She’s very strong and very smart. Bill called. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He said it was an amazing run. He was really very nice.

Responding to a question about how he treats women:

Trump: Women love me.

In the case of Donald Trump, the analysis is so much less straight forward. I just used snippets of his recent interviews. I could go into what he said during the campaign, but then I’d just end up throwing the computer out the window and what good would that do any of us?

Anyway, let’s get back to what we’re supposed to be talking about. In interviews, Donald seems very calm and collected and prepared with his responses. He does not try to take control of the interview, but clearly he has all the power. He’s leading the interview obviously.

In the first conversational snippet, he uses a lot of adjectives, but repeats those adjectives and they tend to be rather flowery about people he had had quite nasty things to say about just a few days earlier. It does show some anxiety on his part. His language may be a reflection of his own lack of confidence in his words or nervousness about having just stepped into such an important role.

With respect to his comments on the women, he uses language to distort reality. Here the interviewer was pointing out what he had said previously about women and how sexist and offensive he was. There he takes control of the situation and through language is able to distort reality to his advantage. Sure, many women have come forward and accused him of being sexist, [but] women love him. Except he doesn’t use “but.” He eliminates it entirely. Women love him. No questions asked.

Well, that’s it. If you read all the way down to here, you must love Donald Trump or language or both. I’m not exactly sure.

Stay tuned Donald Trump. Watch your utterances. I might get linguistic on you once again in the near future.

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