Donald Trump, wordsmith? Not exactly, but there's a lot more to his rhetoric than meets the eye. Take, for example, the way he answers a question.
A recent video essay produced by The Nerdwriter, a weekly Web series, examines the way Trump responded to a question in a December appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on ABC and found that he uses simple language, constructed in a very specific way to be incredibly persuasive.
When host and comedian Kimmel asks Trump whether it was un-American and wrong to discriminate against people based on their religion in light of the billionaire's inflammatory statements about Muslims, he responds:
"But, Jimmy, the problem -- I mean, look, I'm for it. But look, we have people coming into our country that are looking to do tremendous harm. You look at the two -- look at Paris. Look at what happened in Paris. I mean, these people, they did not come from Sweden, okay? Look at what happened in Paris. Look at what happened last week in California, with, you know, 14 people dead. Other people going to die, they're so badly injured. And what I wanna do is find out what it -- you know, you can't solve a problem until you find out what's the root cause. And I wanna find out, what is the problem, what's going on. And, it's temporary. I've had so many people call me and say thank you. Now, if you remember, when I did that a week ago it was like bedlam. All of a sudden -- and you watch last night, and you see people talking. They said, "Well, Trump has a point. We have to get down to the problem." The people that are friends of mine that called to say, "Donald, you have done us a tremendous service." Because we do have a problem, and we have to find out what is the --"
Here's how The Nerdwriter breaks it down.
Trump's one-minute reply says a lot about the GOP contender and his communication strategy. Both Trump's word choice and sentence structure are very simple. Of the 220 words in his response, 172 -- or 78% -- have one syllable. Thirty-nine words, or 17%, have two syllables.
Just four words in Trump's reply have three syllables, and three times it is the same word (one of Trump's favorites): tremendous. He only utters four-syllable words twice: California and temporary, the latter of which he essentially swallows.
He refrains from using complex sentences and independent clauses as well, instead sticking to simple, straightforward statements and assertions.
Though his language may be unsophisticated, the process behind them is not.
Trump has a penchant for speaking in the second person. He often uses the word "you" or addresses viewers with commands. He says to "look at" what happened in Paris and California, referring to the terrorist attacks in France and in San Bernardino, and repeats "you" 10 times.
The impact of the mechanism is, in part, to implicate listeners in what he's saying, almost as if they have already agreed. He says, "And you watched last night, and see you see people talking," in a way imploring onlookers to nod in agreement. He frames negative response to his statements as overreaction that was subsequently realized as such and adopted by others.
Trump's tactics of getting others to adopt his ideas aren't just rhetorical.
He released his Muslim immigration proposal on December 7. At the next Republican presidential debate, just over a week later on December 15, the topic of Muslim immigration and ties between Islam and terrorism dominated the conversation. His focus on building a wall to Mexico early in the campaign has pushed the issue of immigration to the forefront of the GOP presidential race, and in December, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz spent much of the presidential debate sparring about the topic while Trump largely stayed out of the brawl.
Another part of Trump's rhetorical strategy comes in ending his sentences with strong, punchy words -- even if that means adopting an unconventional way of speaking. Instead of saying he wants to find out "what the root cause is," which would be more natural, he says "find out what's the root cause" so he can end with a more forceful image.
Focusing on the last words of his sentences -- which are often the most comprehensible parts of his statement -- paints a pretty scary picture: harm, dead, injured, problem, root cause, point, problem, service.
In his response to Kimmel, Trump also cites friends calling him to thank him for his actions -- another tactic he has employed time and time again. According to Trump, the list of those who have shown or should show gratitude to him includes the United Kingdom, Muslims and New York City.
This isn't the first time Trump's way of speaking has garnered attention.
The Boston Globereviewed Trump's and 18 other candidates' language and found that the former reality television star speaks at a fourth-grade level, the lowest of any contender. By comparison, Hillary Clinton speaks at a seventh-grade level, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Rubio are in the eighth grade, and Bernie Sanders is the smartypants of the bunch, speaking at a tenth-grade level.
The New York Timesmatched candidates' language with the books they sound like and concluded the billionaire falls somewhere between Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson. The publication's choice title for him: The Legends of King Arthur.
Other assessments of Trump's speech have been less lighthearted.
A separate Times piece notes that Trump's words differ significantly from those of previous presidents and concluded the GOP frontrunner's language is "darker, more violent and more prone to insults and aggrandizing." A Forbes article highlighted warnings that Trump's rhetoric could do lasting damage to the U.S. brand.