Analyzing Lexical Simplification in Interviews of Donald Trump and Joe Biden: Tracking the Trend of Simplification in Presidential Discourse Using Lexical Sophistication Indices

Woonhyung Chung 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Yonsei University
Corresponding Author: Doctoral Student Department of English Linguistics and Language Yonsei University 50, Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2023 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Oct 30, 2023 ; Revised: Dec 10, 2023 ; Accepted: Dec 14, 2023

Published Online: Dec 31, 2023


This research aimed to explore whether the observed lexical simplification in Donald Trump’s interviews is an idiosyncratic trait of his linguistic style or if it transcends to his successor, Joe Biden. To achieve a nuanced analysis, the research introduced novel indices of lexical sophistication, moving beyond traditional surface-level lexical measures such as lexical density and lexical diversity. These new indices gauged the use of difficult words, taking into account academic language and psycholinguistic properties such as concreteness, familiarity, imageability, and meaningfulness. While results based on surface-level lexical indices did not reveal any discernible trend, findings derived from the lexical sophistication indices indicated that lexical simplification was not exclusive to Trump. Instead, it emerged as a trend that persisted in Biden’s interviews notably in aspects such as the use of academic words, concreteness, and, to some extent, meaningfulness.

Keywords: lexical simplification; lexical sophistication; political discourses; Donald Trump; Joe Biden



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