Discourse Analysis Suggests Trump Did Indeed Misspeak

The field of Applied Linguistics, which “involve[s] solving some language-related problem or addressing some language-related concern,” provides insights into that one sentence the president uttered in Helsinki that spawned a hissy fit among the political and journalistic classes and even a congressional call for a coup d’état.

Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit!” the politicos and their presstitutes wailed. I confess, I, too, wailed, with glee, as a Russophile and a Trump-loving Deep State-hater. Thus, I was disappointed when I heard this story on the commute home — Trump Walks Back Controversial Comments On Russian Election Interference. “Weak!” I thought. “Very un-Trumplike.”

The “walking back” boiled down to one word: “Before a meeting with GOP lawmakers on Tuesday, Trump told reporters that he misspoke in Helsinki and that when he said he saw no reason why it ‘would’ be Russia that interfered, he meant to say he saw no reason why it ‘wouldn’t.'”

A Discourse Analysis, “the analysis of language ‘beyond the sentence,'” convinced me that the president was telling the truth, that he did, indeed, intend to use a double negative.

First, here is a clip of the president’s clarification:


Next, here is a clip of his original utterance:


In print, the offending statement:

My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.

The key thirteen words here are: “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Words carry meaning, but prosody, “[t]he patterns of stress and intonation in a language,” can color or even chance the meaning of those words. The president drops his pitch when he speaks this sentence, indicating a contrast, or opposite idea, with the preceding sentence, “He just said it’s not Russia.” His dropped pitch suggests that he is countering, not confirming, that idea.

Also suggesting a countering of the previous idea are the words the president stresses in that sentence. We stress a word in a sentence to show some contrast with previous information. He stressed the word “this” in the phrase “I will say this.” By saying, “I will say this“, he suggests that the “this” that follows is contrasting information. Also, his stress of the word “would” indicated a contrast with the previous idea that “it’s not Russia.”

What the president said was, “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” It makes more sense, in terms of the discourse, as, “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be.”

Not only does this make more sense given the preceding sentences, it makes more sense given the president’s recent comments on the topic, that he accepted there had been “Russian interference” of some sort but that there was “no collusion.” In fact, by using the word “collusion” he suggests there was something with which to collude.

I will conclude with two more linguistic insights.

First, people, even (perhaps especially) highly intelligent people, misspeak all the time. It is people of middling intelligence who take delight in pointing out the typos and speakos that their intellectual superiors make.

Second, Vladimir Vladimirovich’s insistence that “it’s not Russia” is not incompatible with the idea that there was some “Russian meddling.” There may be evidence that certain, individual Russians trolled the interwebs to try to influence the election, but there is no evidence that the Russian government (“Russia” or “Moscow” in mediaspeak) was behind some orchestrated effort to influence our election, as the U.S. government has done in the Ukraine, Georgia, and Hungary recent years (or in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile, to name but a few, in less recent years).

The most likely scenario is that individual Russians, acting pro bono, perhaps with some government support, were behind the minor, amateurish “meddling” that has spawned so the absurd Russophobia and neo-McCarthyism that has swept America.

This entry was posted in Holy Mother Russia, Linguistics, The Trumpening, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Discourse Analysis Suggests Trump Did Indeed Misspeak

  1. Pingback: Libtards Could Care Less About Trump’s Correct Choice of Modal | Burned-Over District Perennialist

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