What lies underneath a political speech?: linguistic discourse features in inauguration speech of Donald Trump


Annotation: The research is dedicated to the topic of political speeches and their linguistic features. The article presents the description of the theoretical foundations of the political discourse and linguistic analysis of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech.

Bibliographic description of the article for the citation:

. What lies underneath a political speech?: linguistic discourse features in inauguration speech of Donald Trump//Science online: International Scientific e-zine - 2019. - №6. - https://nauka-online.com/en/publications/sotsialnye-kommunikatsii/2019/6/what-lies-underneath-a-political-speech-linguistic-discourse-features-in-inauguration-speech-of-donald-trump/

The article was published in: Science online No6 июнь 2019

Соціальні комунікації

UDC 81`42

Savaryn Hanna

National University of Ostroh Academy

Scientific supervisor:

Khudolii Anatolii

Dr. rer. pol., Professor

National University of Ostroh Academy 


Summary. The research is dedicated to the topic of political speeches and their linguistic features. The article presents the description of the theoretical foundations of the political discourse and linguistic analysis of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech.

Key words: political discourse, political speech, influence, lexical unit, lexical content.

Анотація. Стаття присвячена аналізу політичних промов та їх лінгвістичних особливостей. У статті розглянуто теоретичні основи політичних промов, а також здійснено лінгвістичний аналіз інавгураційної промови американського президента Дональда Трампа.

Ключові слова: політичний дискурс, політична мова, вплив, лексична одиниця, лексичний зміст.

Topicality of the subject and its correlation with significant practical and scientific tasks. At the present time, political speech takes place as one of the main characteristics features in the life of modern society. With the help of speech, the leaders may appeal both to the international community and to the citizens of the state. In this case, language serves as a strong weapon which may allow speakers to achieve their political goals or not to achieve them. This problem requires an in-depth study since political information has an ideological impact on modern society.

The analysis of researches and publications. The flow of information is conveyed daily. This is particularly evident in the political discourse of politicians. This theme is an topical study, because the information is obtained through the analysis of political speech, it helps to trace the influence of the words of a politician which are used in one or another context for the establishment of power, influence and control of the people, as well as to understand the goals and intentions of a politician. A significant number of scientists was engaged in research of this topic. Among them: O. Shaigal, O.M. Sherman, A.O. Khudolii, Y. Habermas and others.

The purpose of our article is to study Donald Trump’s inauguration speech and detect the examples of linguistic means.

Presentation of the main material. Political speeches are a manifestation of political discourse. Political discourse dates back to ancient Greece, and today it is one of the most widespread ways of influencing the audience.

The very concept of discourse is very multifaceted, which with the development of society is gaining a lot of new meanings. Today, political discourse is a kind of communication that has a specific purpose – an influence on the reader’s political position. O. Shaigal notes that any material that refers to politics should be called “political discourse” [1]. Political actions are carried out mainly through political discourse whose global goal is the struggle for power, its distribution and use. The linguistic approach to political discourse involves studying the political language used for manipulaшtive purposes, and the language of politics – the terminology and rhetoric of political activity [2]. The socio-cultural context of political discourse is characterized by an orientation towards a mass audience, united by common values ​​and guides that can be managed; national and cultural specifics; ideological (discourse reflects the views, beliefs, value orientations of a particular social group) [3]. The field of the functioning of political linguistics, according to L.P. Nagorna, is “the sphere of the intersection of politics and identity” [4, p. 54].

The political discourse represents almost the whole complex of interactions between man and society. Its analysis envisages, first of all, the study of texts in conjunction with extralinguistic factors and shows how different cultural groups model cultural values, how the social order is promoted, which elements of the linguistic picture of the world are left beyond the limits of conscious speech strategies of the speakers, how the conceptual picture of the world is formed, inherent each language team. The goals of political discourse can be the achievement of public consent, acceptance and substantiation of political and socio-ideological strategies, support or destruction of positions, the imposition of one or another ideological orientation of mass consciousness, and others.

Each political speech has a certain political task, therefore, political speeches are not only words, but also certain syntactic constructs of words that the listeners have to call exactly the effect that the speaker has set itself, choosing a certain construction of words. Another way of influencing this is the formation of public opinion [4].

According to V.Z. Demyankov, political discourse can be viewed from four perspectives: political science, linguistics, sociopolitical and individual hermeneutic [5]. Political science serves as the basis for political conclusions; philological interprets political and ideological concepts; socio-psycholinguistics studies the effectiveness of achieving the hidden and explicit political goals of the speaker; the individual-hermeneutical axis of political discourse reveals the personal content of the author’s speech in certain circumstances [6, p. 57].

George Orwell, in his work, “Politics and English,” spoke about the texts of political speeches, often in which there is no meaning and unanimity. Orwell called the “dead” metaphors, super complicated and too intelligent designs, meaningless abstract words, pathetic vocabulary, jargon, etc., among the main disadvantages that the author suspected of spoiling speeches and prose. The author writes that if the purpose of a political language is the protection of the impossible, then the political language itself will consist of euphemism, tautology and frankly blurred uniqueness [7].

After analyzing linguistic discourse features in inaugural speech of Donald Trump we may assume that, there is a great usage of linguistic units in the political speech. Trump’s inaugural address contains fewer than 1,430 words. From linguistic point of view the Donald Trump’s word structures were easy to perceive. Such a linguistic means were determined: metaphors, epithets structures and hyperboles.

It should be pointed out that the most highlighted concept in Trump’s speech was “American” and “America” which frequently were replaced by such a word phrase like “citizens of America”, “citizens of our country”, “our nation’s capital”, “our land”.

Metaphors was one of the most important rhetorical instruments that become an instrument of agitation in the political discourse of D. Trump: Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential [10]. In the example given, the metaphor “trapped in poverty” is used by D. Trump, who tries to explain that many of the inferior families living in cities are living in poverty, and even on the brink of survival. In this way, he wants to emphasize the indifference of the previous government to the problems in society. In the following example, the president expresses his opinion about the education system of the USA: An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge[10]. The metaphor flush with cash has a negative connotation. D. Trump notes the fact that although the education system is full of money, it does not give American youth knowledge. The education system does not fulfil its direct function. The amount of money in the education system does not match its quality.

The next one is: We will shine for everyone to follow” is used by Donald Trump to show the great changes in the country during his tenure.

All in all, metaphors in Donald Trump’s speech were used in some extend to support his political course:rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor”, “I will fight for you with every breath in my body”; to criticize economic, political situation in the state:Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth”, “No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America”; to show his support and give the feeling of unity to people: “nations of the world”, “We are one nation and their pain is our pain”, “We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny”, “we all bleed the same blood of patriots”, “we all salute the same great American Flag”, “they fill their heart with the same dreams”.

Epithets are another common device you may notice in D. Trump’s speech, which usually express the speaker’s attitude to some situation:

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways throughout our wonderful nation [10]. The epithet wonderful emphasizes its positive attitude towards the American nation.

The following example has a negative connotation which is about Islamic terrorism:

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth [10]. Donald Trump emphasizes his negative attitude toward terrorism. The president pledges to eliminate radical Islamic terrorism in the world. The head of state notes that the US will strengthen existing alliances and create new ones.

Donald Trump sometimes applies hyperbole in his inauguration speech. In the translation of hyperbole is defined as “exaggeration”:

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable [10]. The president wants to stress that unity is the key to success. A strong country, its united states. The people and the authorities should have a common goals. Hyperbell “unstoppable” helps to strengthen the expressiveness of the statement and attract attention to the enormity and magnitude of the president’s plans.

While making a critical analysis of Donald Trump’s speech, it appeared that dianetic modalities were widely used there as well:

That all changes, starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment — it belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today, and everyone watching, all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country [10]. This linguistic modality is used by Donald Trump to indicate some actions that will make a great changes in the life of Americans.

At the very end, I would like to mention about deontic modality which is frequently used in inauguration speech of Donald Trump. According to the definition of Sil Glossary of Linguistic Terms deontic modality is modality that connotes the speaker’s degree of requirement of something, desire for something, or commitment to the realization of the proposition expressed by the utterance [11]. This kind of linguistic modality is used in Donald Trump’s speech to show his vision of American country and at the same time, it may indicate set norms and rules the new president will be followed by. Nevertheless, it also says about Trump’s expectations from people. Let’s have a look on the following extract:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength [10]. With the help of deontic modality, in this example Donald Trump tries to show the direction he will be followed by during his years of government and at the same time he says, what he does expect from people.

Summary. After analyzing the inaugural speech of US President Donald Trump and considering the linguistic features of his speech, it is possible to conclude that the usage of stylistic means in political discourse is rather widespread. Such linguistic means used in inauguration speech of Donald Trump as metaphor, epithet, parallel syntactic constructs, semantic repetitions, which are used in the US president speech with persuasive purpose. Moreover, having the result of the research gives us some background information about Donald Trump as a political figure, it also shows his attitude and personal interest to some problems in the life of society.

The prospect of further research of political discourse relates to a detailed analysis of Donald Trump vocabulary, lexical and stylistic content of his speaking eech.


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