Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, it has been clear that his communication skills are unusual. Experts from a variety of professions have been trying to define what the issues are with Trump’s speech and language.
His odd word choices and rambling syntax has caught the attention of several professionals in the fields of speech/language pathology and linguistics.
Last July this writer reported an analysis of Trump’s expressive language from the viewpoint of a speech/language pathologist. Although I haven’t evaluated the man directly, my assessment of his expressive speech is that he shows all the signs of a language based learning disability. You can read the linked article for more specific information.
Several linguists have also come forward with their own analyses of Trump’s way of speaking. Mark Yoffe Liberman is a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. He did an analysis of Trump’s vocabulary choices that was very revealing.
Professor Liberman looked at Trump’s announcement speech as well as several other press conferences and statements. He looked at which words appeared most often in the speeches, and then analyzed those words.
Funnily enough, the most common word used by the Republican candidate was the word “I.” His fourth favorite word was “Trump.”
The Professor also noted that the majority of Trump’s words were only one syllable in length, which may be why is language often sounds choppy and awkward. The few two and three syllable words that he used in the language sample were simple words like “China” and “money.”
An analysis of vocabulary skills which was completed last March by Carnegie Mellon University revealed that most presidential candidates use a vocabulary which falls at about the eighth to tenth grade levels. Trump’s vocabulary was judged to be at about the seventh grade level.
Of course, language consists of more than vocabulary. Linguists and speech pathologists look closely at syntax and the length of sentences when analyzing language.
An assessment called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test measures sentence length and the number of syllables per word. The Boston Globe used that assessment during the primary season and rated nearly all of the candidates spoke at roughly the sixth grade level. Only one candidate, Donald Trump, spoke at a fourth grade level on this measure.
Sociologists have also expressed opinions about Trump’s language. Kay Smythe, a sociology and social sciences writer at Liberal America, posits that Trump’s language shows a lack of social connections in childhood and into adolescence.
She notes that people generally adopt the accents, phrases, and popular slang of their social circle. Trump, however, has not picked up any of the phrasing or word choices of those around him. His speech is completely unique. She suggests that he may have been raised to believe that he was the center of the social universe, or he may have grown up with few friends.
It’s not only experts who question the level and complexity of Trump’s language. Tony Schwartz knows Trump very well, having ghostwritten his best selling book, “The Art of the Deal.”
Schwartz said that after working closely with Trump, he is sure that the man has an extremely small vocabulary. Schwartz puts it at about 200 words, nowhere near the 5,000 words that the average person is supposed to use in speech, according to linguists.
Donald Trump has shown his candidacy to be a serious problem in a lot of ways. Given the fact that American Presidents are required to communicate clearly, precisely and effectively with the entire Globe, the fact that so many experts question his language skills is a serious issue.
Trump may or may not have a language disorder, but its clear that when he tries to get his ideas across, he does it in an immature and simplistic way.
There is just no way that we can send this guy to engage in international diplomacy.