I got an insight on the appeal of President-Elect Trump’s unscripted and sometimes jumbled rhetorical style from a Vox article last week:
His style of speaking is conversational, and may even stem from his New York City upbringing. As George Lakoff, a linguist at UC Berkeley, told me, “[The] thing about being a New Yorker is it is polite if you finish their sentences for them. It’s a natural part of conversation.”
This may be why Trump’s sentences often seem, in transcript form, to trail off with no ending. “He knows his audience can finish his sentences for him,” Lakoff says.
Watching Trump, it’s easy to see how this plays out. He makes vague implications with a raised eyebrow or a shrug, allowing his audience to reach their own conclusions. And that conversational style can be effective. It’s more intimate than a scripted speech. People walk away from Trump feeling as though he were casually talking to them, allowing them to finish his thoughts.
In short, listening to a Trump speech is an interactive experience. And because the whole audience solves the rhetorical puzzle together, a collaborative experience, too. —DM