Political Word Watch: Romney And Santorum

By WGBH News

Jan. 3, 2012

BOSTON — Every schoolchild hears, sooner or later, the reprimand "Watch your language!" At WGBH News, we're thinking about the language the presidential candidates use — not just their concepts and pitches but their words, and the meanings they reveal.

First, we put transcripts of two Republican debates into wordle.net, a website that creates visualizations of how frequently each word appears in a block of text. (Words used more often are bigger.)

Aug. 11, 2011: the debate in Ames, IA
Dec. 11, 2011: the debate in Des Moines, IA

Linguist Anna Marie Trester spoke to WGBH News' Jordan Weinstein about the Republican field's word choices, how they changed from August to December 2011 and what they reveal about the candidates.

Mitt Romney

august romney word cloud december romney word cloud
August 2011 December 2011

Click the images to enlarge.

TRESTER: "He's using 'people' in very interesting ways…. When he says things like 'capitalism is about people,' it's not just about 'capitalism is so good.'  You can see ways that he's very deliberately trying to remind his audience that he thinks about the human aspects of all of these problems. And there's ways that he humanizes every situation that he talks about in the debate."

Rick Santorum

august santorum word cloud december santorum word cloud
August 2011 December 2011

TRESTER: In the December debate, "They had been specifically asked 'Who is the most consistent conservative?' And every one of the candidates sort of oriented to 'conservative' but it's Santorum that really latched on to that. And he actually said 'conservative' 12 times over the debate but five of them in his closing statement. He makes use of that phrase to do some identity-construction as he's closing."

Check out the other candidates' word clouds.

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