Y-H-B has deliberately abstained from posting any commentary on the way Donald Trump speaks until now, but listening to an unannounced press conference this morning from Brussels on NPR has concentrated my mind on the topic and made me realize that the key to this form of pathological speech is the notion that “nothing means anything.”

Words normally have meanings that carve out semantic space in the semiotic web and are shared by speakers in sufficient measure for us to communicate with each other in a non-pathological way. We understand each other when we speak the same language to each other not because meanings are fixed but because the way in which linguistic tokens delineate semantic space in speech follow agreed-upon dimensions and do not vary capriciously.

These broad generalizations about language use do not apply to Trump-speak, which is what renders the latter pathological. If nothing means anything, then what passes for human speech cannot subserve the ends of human linguistic communication. It is simply a stream of English words masquerading as speech, hence linguistic tokens that make only specious reference to meaning.