Archive for Language and politics

Trump the hypernegator?

In addition to the many "nots" he uttered in last night's debate, Trump poured on the negations in this tweet today:

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Trump's debate denials

As Geoff Pullum noted, in last night's presidential debate, many of Trump's interruptions of Clinton (or shall we say his "manterruptions") involved on-the-fly denials of what Clinton was saying. Geoff describes one such denial: "'Not!' he snapped at one point, like a 9-year-old, during one of her utterances."

Let's go to the transcript:

CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts. The facts are — I did say I hoped it would be a good deal, but when it was negotiated…

TRUMP: Not.


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Debate words

Geoff quoted Vox on Donald Trump's interruptions during last night's debate, and discussed the extraordinary childishness of some of those interruptions. I don't have much time this morning, so I'll just add a few words about words.

Trump used 35% more wordforms than Clinton did — 8,866 to 6,580, by my trivial debate-analysis program's count based on the Washington Post's transcript. And as expected based on past performances, Trump repeated himself a lot — a type-token plot shows that Clinton actually used a larger number of distinct words (1,333 to Trump's 1,253), despite using significantly fewer word tokens:


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Sex, lies, and childishness; and insomnia

It's a bit early for Language Log to do any analysis of the presidential debate last night. Where I live, it came on after 2 a.m., and where Mark lives it is still only 5:15 a.m. right now. But Vox has already analysed the interruption rate, a well-known index of gender in speech style. Trump interrupted Clinton exactly three times as often as she interrupted him. I think Language Log can confidently affirm that here we have convincing linguistic evidence that Trump is male and Clinton is female.

But one other thing I noticed, as I struggled to stay awake in the darkness of the middle of the night here in Edinburgh, with the bedside radio softly relaying the debate via the BBC World Service, was the astonishingly childish nature of many of Trump's interruptions.

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Horribles and deplorables

Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" is destined to become one of the lasting catchphrases of the campaign season.

Clinton's use of the phrase (which she says she now regrets*) appeared in a speech delivered at a fundraiser on Friday night:

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.

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What did Duterte call Obama?

diplomatic rift between the United States and the Philippines was precipitated by comments that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made about President Obama at a Sept. 5 news conference.

Duterte's offensive comment was made in Tagalog (though most of his news conference was in English). In English-language press accounts, the Tagalog phrase putang ina has been translated as "son of a whore" or "son of a bitch." (NPR was less forthcoming today, variously referring to it as "an obscenity about Obama's mother" or "son of a fill-in-the-blank.") So what did Duterte really mean by putang inaChris Sundita, who has helped us with Tagalog translational issues in the past, comes to the rescue.

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Pure conversation

In "Annals of literary vs. vernacular, part 2" (9/4/16), we saw how Chairman Xi badly bungled a literary quotation.  Now we find that, in the same speech, the Chairman may be said to have misinterpreted a literary term, qīngtán 清谈 ("pure conversation").

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Cantonese then and now

Carmen Lee sent in two items pertaining to Cantonese.

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Trump translated

In "Trump’s Tower of Babble:  How the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis explains Donald Trump’s rantings — and why the rest of the world is so confused" (Foreign Policy, 8/30/16), Christopher M. Livaccari and Jeff Wang allege:

Questions about the meaning of Trump’s words… may be a type of category mistake. Trump and his supporters seem to be adherents to a strong version of what linguists call the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis — the idea that the language we use has an effect on our thinking and the way we perceive the world.  There’s only one thing the Trump campaign seems to sincerely believe, in other words — namely, that if it says something enough times, no matter how disconnected from truth or logic, other people will begin to believe it.

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Speak Polish and die

Arkadiusz Jóźwik, an immigrant from Poland who had been living in England for four years, decided last Saturday evening (for the first time, according to his brother) to go down to a pizzeria in a strip mall in Harlow, Essex, and collect his pizza rather than have it delivered. He stood outside with a friend eating a slice, and a group of teenage boys who often hung out there heard him speaking to his friend in Polish (he didn't know much English). That linguistic evidence of foreignness was enough for one of the teenagers to attack him. Others joined in and savagely beat him. The friend was also attacked, sustaining fractured bones in his hands and bruising to his stomach. Both men were taken to a local hospital, but Arkadiusz had to be transferred to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge to be treated for a head injury, and by Monday he was dead.

Such is the poisonous atmosphere that has emerged in some areas of England since the June 23 vote in which a majority of the UK's electorate voted for leaving the European Union.

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New frontiers in pseudo-Freudian slips

Jan Brewer, the former governor of Arizona, calls in once a week to the Mac & Gaydos radio show on KTAR in Glendale, Arizona. Her call on Tuesday 8/16/2016 featured this epic sequence, explaining why she doesn't think Donald Trump needs to run ads in Arizona:

got a strong message out there
and the people want a fighter
they're tired of the lying killer uh Hillary Clinton
and Bill Clintons of the world
vetted her now for thirty years

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Internecine strife at Language Log?

Are we seeing the first signs of discord at Language Log Plaza? Mark Liberman seems to be flatly rebutting Geoff Pullum's "no structure at all" remark about what he calls "Trump's aphasia." Mark maintains that Trump's speaking style is no different in kind from any other human's spontaneous speech, even crediting him with "eloquence." Geoff, by contrast, seems to regard Trump as barely capable of expressing himself in human language. This looks like the beginnings of a proper scholarly punch-up. Is Liberman pro-Trump and Pullum anti? Have Mark and Geoff fallen out?

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The em-dash candidate

Daniel Libit, "Transcribers' agony: Frustrated not by what Trump says but how he says it", CNBC 8/15/2016:

Few conventions in political campaign coverage are as straightforward and unassailable as quoting a public figure verbatim. After all, how can there be any doubt when you are putting down the exact words someone says?

And yet, as with many other parameters of the process, Donald Trump has complicated this, too.

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