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The Melania Trump and Michelle Obama speeches from a linguistic point of view

When now incoming first lady Melania Trump made her speech at the Republican National Convention the last July, many people said that it sounded very similar to Michelle Obama‘s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. Expert System used its Cogito technology to analyze the Melania Trump and Michelle Obama speeches to identify similarities and differences through a linguistics lens.

The similarities of the two speeches were noted on social media by everyday citizens, as well as journalists and politicians. Many of them accused Melania of plagiarism. However, beyond the controversial paragraphs (about family values in particular), the question is: did the two first ladies use the same words and say really the same things?

To answer this question, Expert System developed an independent analysis using Cogito, the cognitive technology that applies a human-like comprehension of language to make sense of any kind of information.

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What Cogito discovered about the Melania Trump and Michelle Obama speeches

Expert System used the transcripts of both speeches to perform a cognitive analysis of the language used. The Cogito cognitive technology first analyzed the general topics, emotions and entities present in the speeches.

According to Cogito, the Melania Trump and Michelle Obama speeches covered similar topics but with different emphasis. While Michelle’s speech instilled hope, Melania talked in particular about desire.

Looking at the main concepts, Melania mentioned the veteran Republican Bob Dole, while Michelle gave great relevance to Hillary Clinton (at the time, a competitor) and to Chicago (Melania only briefly cited New York).

And what importance did they give to their husbands? Melania referenced husband Donald 35% more often than Michelle talked about her husband, President Barack Obama. In those references, Melania talked her husband as a leader, while Michelle cited the role of her husband as in service to the American people.

Lexicons and verbs: the differences between Melania and Michelle

Considering the lexicon, or vocabulary, of each speaker, we notice that Melania’s  language is easier to understand, with a vocabulary richness of 78.6% vs. 48.47% for Michelle. Instead, Michelle used a more complex text structure with long sentences, perhaps targeting listeners with a higher level of education.

Looking at the verbs used in both speeches, Michelle frequently used the verb to hope, while Melania used the verb to fight with greater frequency.

In the end, we can say that the Melania Trump and Michelle Obama speeches communicated very different messages and revealed strong differences about concepts, emotions and specific elements. So, while they may have sounded similar, the two speeches actually said different things.

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