Donald Trump’s use of Twitter as a modality to defame opponents, antagonize media outlets and even glorify violence is an enduring legacy for political campaigns, presidential rhetoric and argumentative debates. This nontraditional use of social media as a political communication tool has invited Twitter’s fact-checking editorial decisions, alienated some of Trump’s supporters and attracted worldwide criticism. Using purposive sampling, the present paper employs the ten textual-conceptual functions of critical stylistics to analyze a dataset of Trump’s tweets on domestic and international political issues published between 2011 and 2020 and assembled from the monitor corpus Trump Twitter Archive. The critical stylistic analysis aims at uncovering Trump’s ideological outlook by identifying the extra layer of meaning in which the ideological evaluation is structured and exposing the way in which the resources of language are strategically deployed to influence and ideologically manipulate Trump’s followers’ experience of reality. Analysis reveals a network of lexical, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic choices underlying Trump’s seemingly simple rhetoric. It signposts his ideological evaluation and constructs a world for his followers to desire, believe or fear. The study extends the application of critical stylistics to microblogging channels, with implications both for the linguistic make-up of political communication in Web 2.0 contexts and for the explanatory power of critical stylistics.
Gibreel Sadeq Alaghbary
critical stylistics, Donald Trump, political communication, social media, Twitter