President Trump’s use of ‘Impoliteness Strategies’ in Twitter outputs targeted at U.S. politicians (from 15 June 2015, to 24 May 2019)
Abstract: This paper enters into a field of linguistics dedicated to analysing the use of strategies in performing impolite, intentionally targeted, language output. Specifically, it evaluates the purpose(s) of U.S. President Donald Trump’s impolite output on social media platform Twitter. It is done by operationalizing the taxonomy of ‘impoliteness strategies’ as it was formulated by Jonathan Culpeper (1996), sprung from distinctions related to the concept of face. In differentiating and analysing the face-threatening qualities of Trump’s impolite outputs, the aim has been to contribute to a more complex understanding of Trump’s dominant purposes in performing these. Quantitative analysis of a selection of Trump’s tweets targeting U.S. politicians was performed to indicate the relative weights of his use of different categories of ‘impoliteness triggers’; weights which are drawn on to indicate the prevailing functional purpose of the set of tweets. Findings are further evaluated in relation to the context of U.S. politics. Results show that Trump’s Twitter outputs predominantly categorize as POSITIVE IMPOLITENESS triggers, typically ‘insults’ and ‘pointed criticisms/complaints’. This is consistent with a high ‘linguistic-pragmatic’ degree of offence. In terms of function, it suggests Trump’s predominantly coercive purpose to undermine his targets’ appearances and abilities. A common use of intensifiers and/or repetition in outputs further suggests emotionality as a way of exacerbating offence. Such strategies typically coincide with a readily apparent entertainment purpose, which is reflected also in SARCASM OR MOCK IMPOLITENESS triggers. Use of NEGATIVE IMPOLITENESS triggers, such as ‘condescensions’, ‘dismissals’ and ‘threats’, which commonly associate with purposes of manifesting authority and power occur less frequently. In terms of gender distinctions, ‘insults’ as the percentage share of all outputs performed by Trump, per gender category, is substantially higher for female U.S. politicians than for the males.
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