Responsibility and Evidence in Trumpian Discourse

Trumped Up Words

It started as an innocuous press conference in the White House Rose Garden. The President and Senate Majority Leader would meet with reporters to emphasize, with typical Trumpian overstatement, that they were “closer than ever before.” Then Trump got that question about the death of four soldiers killed in Niger: “And what do you have to say about that?” He replied that he had written letters to the families, which would be “going out tonight.” Then, he said he would “call the parents and the families—because I have done that, traditionally.”

Never one to let a moment pass (even one of apolitical solemnity) without engaging in his favorite game of one-upmanship, he added that “if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.” Later in the press conference, a reporter followed up by asking how Trump could make that claim. Trump responded, “I was told that he didn’t often.”

This exchange not only exemplifies Trump’s constant need to puff himself up by denigrating others, but it also illustrates the way he exploits what linguists call evidentiality—the semantic marking of an information source—to wrap innuendos in the sheath of truth claims while avoiding responsibility for the veracity of those claims.

… To read the whole article please click the URL next to the word “Source“. I am also providing information on the author and the citation instructions from the journal.


Adam Hodges is a linguistic anthropologist specializing in political discourse. His books include The ‘War on Terror’ Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality (2011), and his articles have appeared in Discourse & SocietyJournal of Linguistic AnthropologyLanguage & Communication, and Language in Society.

Cite as: Hodges, Adam. 2017. “Responsibility and Evidence in Trumpian Discourse.” Anthropology News website, November 3, 2017. doi: 10.1111/AN.676

Source: Anthropology News, November 2017.


Note: As you all know I am interested in political discourse and the way politicians present themselves. We live in interesting times especially since Trump became President of the United States. I found this very interesting article about evidentiary markers in Trump’s statements and I am giving you here the start of the article and the source where you can go to read the whole article.

On an unrelated to linguistics/language/translation matters: it would be so nifty if magazines like this one provided the articles with a by default reprint license. I am not harming them by presenting the article here provided I don’t claim that it’s mine or that I was the original publisher. On top of all this I do provide the originator’s URL and everything concerning where I got it. You might ask why I am ranting? I am ranting because there is this accumulation of voices lately that call for open knowledge and for dissemination of knowledge while at the same time there are journals who will not permit reprint of articles even if by default the reprinting site utilizes a by default common license mentality i.e. the originator’s site is mentioned, the date, the url, etc. When one combines this mentality with the absence of ads (for example Leximania is a free site, I don’t take advantage of people clicking through the site) then it’s free advertising for your journal and also helps in saving an article for use long after that particular journal has closed or has any problems with their online presence.

In any case, I have cropped the article to just it’s beginning and people can click on the word “Source” at the end to go to the journal’s site. I am keeping the intro intact as I can do that under the fair use doctrine. I am not profiting and I don’t claim that the article is mine and according to the fair use doctrine “brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.”

Thank you Adam Hodges for writing this wonderful article and to Anthropology News for printing it.


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