Endangered Intellect: A Case Study of Clinton Vs Trump Campaign Discourse


  • Marta Degani




This study investigates political language and political discourse with a focus on anti-intellectualism that is interpreted from two different but related perspectives. First, anti-intellectualism is seen as related to linguistic complexity as measured by certain textual features (e.g. sentence length, word length, number of complex words). Secondly, anti-intellectualism is seen as connected to characteristics of discourse such as representation of Self, representation of Other and framing of political issues. This integrated approach to the examination of anti-intellectualism in American political language and discourse is based on both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis, and it is used for investigating Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s announcement speeches. The purely quantitative analysis relies on a range of well-known readability tests (Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease, Flesch Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning Fog Score, SMOG Index, Coleman Liau Index, Automated Readability Index, New Dale-Chall Readability Index and Fry Graph) to account for the linguistic complexity of the political speeches as a measure of their anti-intellectualism. The qualitative analysis utilizes methods of Corpus Linguistics to identify keywords in each of the political texts and relies on a Critical Discourse Analysis framework to investigate the impact of lexical choice on the construction of political and social reality.