the study that produced the graph at right, the reading level (sophistication, wordiness, vocabulary, etc.) of presidential speeches has been going down for a long, long time. The study used the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests to objectively assess the speeches, which are somewhat controversial amongst language scientists. The analysis points out something that these tests completely miss: the impact of a speech upon its listeners (or readers). The Gettysburg Address, for example, scores very modestly on the Flesch-Kincaid tests, but has had an outsized impact.
I'm not sure what to take away from this, but it's definitely ponder-worthy...
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