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Donald Trump’s Speaking Style

The maverick speaking style of U.S. President, Donald Trump, is reflected both through his accent and his delivery.
Donald Trump
© Michael Vadon (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0

The maverick speaking style of U.S. President, Donald Trump, is reflected both through his accent and his delivery. Despite being a billionaire, Trump has kept a working-class New York accent, which he has used to his advantage. Guo (2016) cites Michael Newman, a linguist at Queens College in New York City, as saying:

“Democrat or Republican, in an age where trust in politicians is at a minimum, it is not hard to see the attraction of that blunt aspect of the New York image… People do not perceive the New York style of speaking as particularly attractive or high-status. But they do associate it with competence, aggressiveness and directness.” (Newman in Guo, 2016).

Donald Trump’s Speaking Style

As well as using his working class accent to appeal to working class voters, President Trump has adopted a much more “conversational” style of speaking than most politicians, including his political rival, Hilary Clinton. Trump does this, for example, by frequently speaking without a script and directly addressing his interviewer or audience (e.g. use of ‘you’). He also tends to talk in short tone units (stretches of speech between pauses), uses short, high-frequency words and many intensifiers, such as really and very.
Listen to this extract from an interview with Donald Trump by Jimmy Kimmel in American TV programme ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ (18 December 2015).
Do you notice anything distinctive about Trump’s speech style, including his vocal style?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Transcript of extract

Interviewer: but ˈisn’t it ˈunamerican and ˈwrong …to ˈdiscriminate ˈagainst ˈpeople.. ˈbased on ˈtheir ˈreligion..
Trump: but ˈJimmy …I’m ˈfor it ..but ˈlook…. we ˈhave.. ˈpeople.. ˈcoming.. ˈinto our ˈcountry.. that are ˈlooking to ˈdo.. ˈtremendous.. ↑ˈharm….you ˈlook at the two .. ˈlook at ↑ˈParis.. ˈlook at what ˈhappened in ˈParis … I mean ˈthese ˈpeople.. they did ˈnot ˈcome from ˈSweden… ˈOK …ˈlook at what ˈhappened in ˈParis… ˈlook at what ˈhappened ˈlast ˈweek.. in ↑ˈCalifornia…with with, you ˈknow… ˈfourteen ˈpeople ˈdead… ˈother ˈpeople ˈgoing to ˈdie.., ..they’re ˈso ˈbadly ˈinjured… we ˈhave a ˈreal ↑ˈproblem..

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Tannen, D. (1984) Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends. New York:, Ablex Publishing.
Guo. J. (2016) What’s up with Donald Trump’s voice. Blogpost Feb 9 2016. Accessed May 2018.

© University of Leicester
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Introduction to Applied Linguistics and TESOL

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