Does Trump Really Have the Best Words?

March 12, 2017

Does Trump…Have the Best Words? #Lexical analysis of 58 inaugurals; words/sent., we-v-I & will-v-shall usage, &c

“V. Inaugural Language Has Kept Up With the Times

Modern inaugurals are less complex than early inaugurals, but not at the cost of lexical richness. Presidents aren’t exactly dumbing things down for us–they don’t assume we have limited vocabularies–but they are trying to speak our language. So they tend to use words that fit the current vernacular.

Take, for example, the choice to use “will” or “shall”:
To Americans, “shall” began to sound outmoded (or perhaps British) somewhere around World War II, and presidents pretty much stopped using it. “Will” has the same imperative force, but doesn’t clang as much to modern ears.

Mr. Trump, who has an ear for vernacular, didn’t use “shall” at all in his speech. Instead, he used “will” a record-breaking 43 times, and its prevalence was plain as he declared his intention to upend Washington politics, reinforce borders, and turn us into winners in what he sees as a zero-sum world:

In addition to “we,” Mr. Trump also hit the word “America” pretty hard. If you compare the use of “America,” “American,” and
“Americans,” to “citizenship,” “citizen,” and “citizens,” you’ll see that this tendency is also part of a trend:”