XXIII Открытая конференция студентов-филологов в СПбГУ

Phonostylistic analysis of Donald Trump’s speeches: what makes him so persuasive?

Мария Алексеевна Филиппова
ГБОУ гимназия №116

Ключевые слова, аннотация

According to psychologists, Donald Trump's speeches are the most confident in the last 230 years among all US presidents. The aim of this study was to define specific phonetic features in Trump’s speeches and the way they contribute to his speaker’s charisma. The characteristics of Trump’s discourse were assessed using Wave Assistant and Praat programs. The findings suggest that the specific features of Trump’s speeches are the use of short intonation units and a monotonous manner. The results obtained can be used in phonetics, discourse analysis, and in designing programs for speech modeling.


The study of the language of politics is currently of particular interest for linguists since this language is an important form to present relevant information and at the same time a tool for the power struggle. The relevance of the work stems from the fact that proper use of language means, their most effective combination and expressive capabilities ensure effective interaction between the politician and the audience, and lead to achieving the desired results. Most scholars and political commentators agree that Donald Trump is unlike any previous US president. Few would disagree that he speaks in a simple, straightforward fashion and expresses his views with absolute confidence. 
The purpose of this research was to study the main phonostylistic tools used by US President Donald Trump in his public speeches regarding the situation in Iran. 
The research material included video recordings, as well as transcripts of Donald Trump's speeches on the situation in Iran in 2019 and Barak Obama’s speeches regarding the situation in Syria.
Research methods are as follows:
1. the auditory analysis was used to choose the most relevant speech excerpts and to determine the factors contributing to the peculiarity of Donald Trump’s speech;
2. the acoustic analysis was employed to identify the intensity, pitch and intonation groups;
3. the descriptive analysis enabled us to classify and present the obtained results.
The analysis revealed that there are numerous intonation units comprising only 1 or 2 meaningful words. In many cases, intonation units do not correspond to the syntagmatic segmentation. In order to determine the specific features, the acoustic analysis of Donald Trump’s speeches was carried out in comparison with the parameters of Barak Obama’s speech. The analysis revealed a low variety in Trump’s tone range. The prevailing nuclear tone is the High Fall. Level tone is a specific feature of Donald Trump’s public performance. Most commonly level tone is irrelevant to the acoustic intensity. 
All in all, although Donald Trump's public speeches are well-prepared, they are characterized by an element of spontaneity, manifested in the presence of a significant number of short syntagmas in the message. Probably, a strong dissection of the speech stream accounts for the peculiarity of Donald Trump’s public performance. Therefore, it can be concluded that phonetic tools provide extensive opportunities for implementing the author's personality in the rhetorical discourse.