Decline of the US President's linguistic standard

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Plazma Inferno!, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not convinced that greater readability indicates a decline in intellectual stature. Also, I count it as a mark of competence that rhetoric intended to be delivered as a speech to a large crowd measures as simpler than prose written to be read by an intellectual elite.
     
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  5. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    Comparison of esrtwhile literary declarations with current mundane expositions is hampered by the evolutionary character of language, especially its lexographic tangibles. Transmuted meaning, anachronistic structures, obsolete vocabulary and archaic phrasing combine to encapsulate the audience in a chaotic maelstrom of connotation and explication, rendering them cognitively adrift.

    And for today's electorate: they used to talk funny and we can't understand that now.
     
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  7. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

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  8. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    Which intellectual elites? 9th graders?

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  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    What is "18th grade?" The last year in high school is 12th grade.

    After that, years in a university are not called "grades." They're freshman year, sophomore year, junior year or senior year.

    I suppose "16th grade" would be completion of a baccalaureate, but no one calls it that.

    Moving beyond that, master's and PhD programs vary greatly in duration. "18th grade" could refer to a student who is two years into a three-year master's program, but also to another student who has already been awarded a PhD in a less demanding field of study.

    In any case, why would a President write his State of the Union address in rhetoric that barely one percent of the population could understand? That is hardly the way to establish rapport with his constituents.

    These days, even writing to the level of a high school graduate is risky.
     
  10. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Maybe the public education system could use an up-grade?
    Adapting all communication to the presumed standard of the masses means
    1. There can be no explanation of complex domestic and international issues - only a simplified synopsis, which, of course, means, the people have no idea what "their" government is doing.
    2. The audience is never challenged to stretch its attention-span or expand its vocabulary, which means they're easier to lie to every year.

    Thus, we devolve from ".... our forefathers brought forth upon this continent..." archaic phrasing to the more intelligible: "I won most of those law-suits.", which is understood to mean approximately the same as "I am not a crook."
     
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    For a ceremonial and political speech delivered to a large and varied crowd, outdoors, 9th grade would be a good target.

    The original and early decades's State of the Union addresses were written documents from essentially a CEO to essentially a Board of Directors of a very high class nonprofit, intended to be read at leisure by an intellectual elite - the members of Congress, who were among the most highly educated people in the country at a time when education itself was far more intensively focused on rhetoric and sophisticated literacy. Even the mathematics they learned was largely rhetorical, in the old sense (many learned their geometry directly from Euclid's Elements, often in the original Greek http://mysite.du.edu/~etuttle/classics/nugreek/contents.htm).

    I don't think a straight comparison of literary sophistication is reasonable.
     
  12. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

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  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    The issue is not that the president should speak at a higher level than his constituents can understand. The issue is that he has to go so far down the scale to find an even mostly-understandable level of discourse. That is sad, and bodes poorly for any democracy or republic.

    Writing for pre-teens is all well and good - but there are concepts for which such language is simply not well suited.
     
  14. Retribution Banned Banned

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  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    It seems to be working for Donald Trump.
     
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Donald's language is terrific, really terrific! Everyone likes it and he's really popular because of his terrific speech. No one likes those other people who use bad, hard speech.
     
  17. Retribution Banned Banned

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    Well, yes, but one must balance that against, say... "Idiocracy".

    The illusion of superiority, versus appeal to the common man...
    Where is the balance?
     

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