24 May 2017


Excerpts from a public speech presented in Sun City, South Carolina last year:
Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart —you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.
I won't name the speaker.  You'll have to guess.

Diagramming sentences
Diagramming Obama's sentences
Diagramming Sara (Palin's) sentences
Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Stan B for providing in his comment a link to this discussion:
It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice:
“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”
When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the latest example of his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech.

STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable...

In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans...

Now, Trump’s vocabulary is simpler. He repeats himself over and over, and lurches from one subject to an unrelated one, as in this answer during an interview with the Associated Press last month:
“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”
For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency, complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function.
The experts noted clear changes from Trump’s unscripted answers 30 years ago to those in 2017, in some cases stark enough to raise questions about his brain health. They noted, however, that the same sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue.
More at the link.


  1. Reads like the transcript from an episode of Drunk History. Gods save us.

  2. Possibly this guy...


    1. Thanks, Stan B. I've appended excerpts from that link into the body of the post.

  3. An idiosyncratic dialoguer myself, it is Trumps corporate collusion that I find most worrisome.

    Trump has raised the bar of mass non-communication to the point Greenspan could take notes. The speech patterns are effective at a level that feels subliminal. The emphasis is placed on individual parts, repeated, disjointed, scrambled. What are the studied speech patterns of con artists? Back in university I met a con artist and he talked in a similar manner, one studied and tuned to his target audience (mark).

    In the Stan B article (thanks for the link Stan & Stan!) it is also said:

    "Although neither Johnson nor other experts STAT consulted said the apparent loss of linguistic fluency was unambiguous evidence of mental decline, most thought something was going on."

    "...Dr. Robert Pyles, a psychiatrist in suburban Boston. He heard “a difference in tone and pace. … What I did not detect was any gaps in mentation or meaning. I don’t see any clear evidence of neurological or cognitive dysfunction.”

    All the analysis focuses on public speeches and appearances. Is there any evidence to suggest that he is talking in this manner uniformly, even in semi-private, private and intimate settings? Or is this why there is focus on state of mind over rhetorics?

    Listening to politicians as they are groomed from entry to top ranks is fascinating. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney admitted to spending hours in front of the mirror practicing presentation. Watching current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been fascinating (yes, I'm Canadian) - with him the progression feels like a dissociation from meaning - a person who says a speech with the words attached to his meaning (back in the days when he was a shaggy headed, goatee wearing, private boys school class kid), towards one saying words detached from meaning (the meaning here detached from himself). He also uses exaggerated pacing and word emphasis that alleviates and emphasizes impression in ways contrary to the content and, more notably, previous or resultant action.

    Our popular culture looks to psychological/neurological diagnosis like Victorians to phrenology. I'm not saying an othered state of mind isn't a valid possibility. It can be a distraction from the underlying fact that Trump is no different than other grammatically nuanced politicians in that, at the end of the day, it is the intentional disjoint nature of the actions that are of concern.


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