Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

‘I know words…I have the best words’: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Donald Trump’s Face-saving Tactics

‘I know words…I have the best words’: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Donald Trump’s Face-saving Tactics

Aaron Taylor

Critical Discourse Analysis is a relatively new approach to the study of discourse that seeks to understand how language use and societal structures (such as power and the resulting inequality) arise and are reinforced from the interactions between the two. The purpose of this research is to apply Critical Discourse Analysis to Republican Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s speeches and other interviews in order to highlight and characterize the ways in which he uses hedges to resolve the paradox between the truth values of his utterances and what his supporters claim. The use of Critical Discourse Analysis will help to narrow down the specific tactics utilized by Trump in various situations that require him to save-face with his audience. The most common tactics utilized by Trump are feigning ignorance of a topic and setting up reported speech of some sort, also known as wedges, in order to escape the responsibility for his utterances. Some examples of these wedges are: ‘I don’t know (anything)…’, ‘Many people have told me…’, ‘I don’t believe…’, and ‘I’m pretty sure…’ Data drawn from both interviews with his supporters, in order to provide information as to how Trump fits into what they are looking for in a president, and speeches of Trump himself will be used for the analysis.

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April 11, 2016 - Posted by | abstract

6 Comments »

  1. This sounds like an interesting (and probably hilarious) analysis, and it is something I would enjoy reading as someone with a standing interest in politics.

    Comment by Matthew Ashford | April 16, 2016 | Reply

    • Now you get to read it, because I sent you an invitation on Google Docs. :P

      Comment by Aaron Taylor | April 21, 2016 | Reply

  2. This looks like there would be plenty data. As you say, “the most common tactics utilized by Trump are feigning ignorance of a topic and setting up reported speech of some sort, also known as wedges, in order to escape the responsibility for his utterances.” What would also be interesting would be to understand what words and conventions he uses based on what group he is speaking to. Would a pattern emerge in how he speaks to various demographic.

    Comment by D Castagna | April 19, 2016 | Reply

    • There was definitely a lot of data! I narrowed down my main sources to two presidential debates and an interview with Trump about his foreign policy.

      Comment by Aaron Taylor | April 21, 2016 | Reply

  3. The topic of this paper is extremely current and amusing. I would love to read this paper and see how Trump saves face along with how many times he has to do it. Does he change his response and usage of ‘wedges’ according to the topic that is being discussed or to whom is he speaking to?

    Comment by Natasha Modi | April 25, 2016 | Reply

  4. I would love to read this. I’m both interested in politics and how surprisingly skilful politicians can be at rhetoric. Could you send me an invitation to read this on google docs? Thanks!

    Comment by Rahma | August 19, 2016 | Reply


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