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August 30, 2008


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I was interested in the syntax that Sarah Palin used in her interview with Charles Gibson, more than how her many children got their names. I thought that there was something odd about the way she answered the questions, but I am no linguist so I couldn't identify what the problem was. There were verbs and prepositions that were out of place in many of her answers. I didn't know if it was as a result of her having memorized talking points imperfectly, or if it was some neurological or learning problem. Can a linguist weigh in on this issue? Thanks.

Virtual Linguist

Dear Sadie,
Thank you for your comment and question. I have just watched the interview on YouTube. You are right about some verbs being out of place. For instance, Gibson's first question was 'Can you look the country in the eye and say "I have the experience and I have the ability to be not just vice-president, but perhaps president of the United States of America?"'. Palin answered 'I do, Charlie', even though the correct answer would have been 'I can'. But still, I wouldn't condemn her too much for that, as it was a fairly long, rambling question, and she may have thought she was responding to 'Do you have the experience ...?'

Sarah Palin was obviously nervous and her answers were often stilted, but I think that this was mainly due to having been intensively coached, then trying to recall the 'correct' answers at the right time.

I made more comments for myself when watching the interview and write about them in my September 15 post.

Thanks for reading.

Best wishes

Susan, the Virtual Linguist

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