Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trump's language deficit

Speaking vs Writing - the two things that linguists and anthropologists point to as hallmarks of our exceptional human capacities for symbolic thought and communication. 
Our abilities to speak and write are our greatest "social technologies" - these two humans capacities allow us to manage the demands of ever more sophisticated lives.  Some evolutionary biologists argue that we developed such a precise and rich language system because we, more than other species, had something to talk about. Sure, other animals, communicate.  Bees can communicate the direction of more honey; and birds can chirp to find a mate; and prairie dogs can contaminate the pack with fear of an oncoming predator. 

But humans - well we do all of it so much better. 

And sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we dis someone in an email or text...then OOPS.  We stop and think, YIKES there it is right there on the screen!  I sent that.  It's there and not going away.  Stupid me.  So glad I didn't put that in an email or a love letter!

This is to say,  for most of us, most of the time, we are sensitive to the basic differences between saying something and putting it down on a page.

Speech - through the air or airwaves - here/ heard and then gone - somewhat ephemeral.
If something stupid or hurtful comes out of my mouth I can do a repair, "What I meant to say was....."   Our tone can soften, or we can change pitch and pace and voila, our sloppy stutter becomes  a self deprecating. "Good, Chris,  try putting the other foot in your mouth now." Or, a softened apology, "I only say this because I love you and I want you to be happy."

And while some of us are far better than others at using speech to negotiate our lives, we all get the job done.

Writing - on the page or screen - preserved/ there to be read and re-read - permanent. Irrefutable.   Written words come back to haunt us more than our spoken ones do.  The very act of writing implies we've had to think about what to write.  And that very thinking process serves as a filter for the thoughts, feelings and the language that will best help us communicate our intent.

And then there is TRUMP SPEAK
On display almost everyday is a native speaker of English who seems not to grasp this basic distinction between ephemeral speech and written language.  

Or perhaps my diagnosis of a language deficit is completely off. 
As a speaker on the election trail and since, you might condemn Trump's speeches as disjointed - delivered somewhat like a standup comedian without any of the self effacing grace of one.  

But he does understand public speaking and the power of simple name calling and repetition - "crooked Hillary," "it will be fantastic", "stupid" and  "loser".

So if it's not a fundamental language awareness deficit - what is it?
Is our SMS infused society made speaking and writing/text essentially equivalent for many people?
Is the written form going to become more monologue - stream of consciousness writing - an accepted form of logoria?

Will Trump come to abandon his twitter account and move to Instagram?

No comments:

Post a Comment