Speech from the throne not simpler, but more difficult than in previous years

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As in previous years, the speech from the throne was difficult once again: it contained many complicated and unfamiliar words, phrases, and constructions. More even, than the speeches from the throne of the previous four years, analysis by linguists Leo Lentz and Henk Pander Maat shows.

Difficult speech from the throne

To measure the level of difficulty of the speech from the throne, Lentz and Pander Maat used LiNT, a software tool developed by Utrecht University. With a score of 58, this year’s speech from the throne comes close to court rulings (average 62) and scores higher than previous speeches from the throne (around 54). By comparison, easy and accessible texts like Jip and Janneke stories score around 10.

"This year’s speech from the throne was more difficult on all the criteria LiNT considers," Lentz and Pander Maat say. "There were more unfamiliar and more abstract words and more difficult sentences. The latter is mainly because the text contains many enumerations and clauses."

The linguists rewrote a passage from the speech from the throne. By example, ’De publieke dienstverlening is de plek waar mensen de overheid vaak voor het eerst tegenkomen. Daar, bij het overheidsloket, moet vertrouwen ontstaan’ becomes ’Als burger kom je de overheid het eerst tegen bij het overheidsloket, zoals de gemeente en de belastingdienst. Dáár moet vertrouwen groeien in de overheid’. "With simplifications like this, the LiNT score of the text drops by 20 points on average," Lentz and Pander Maat explain.

Rewritten passage

Leo Lentz and Henk Pander Maat rewrote a passage from this year’s speech from the throne. This, and an explanation of the elements LiNT checks, can be downloaded here in Dutch.

Benefits of a simpler speech from the throne

Earlier this week, Lentz and Pander Maat’s research on a simpler speech from the throne received widespread coverage. The researchers had rewritten last year’s throne speech and essentially found only benefits. Subjects rated the new version more positively, finding it easier to understand and less distant, but still formal enough.

A simpler speech from the throne would also be more comfortable for the king. Last year, he clearly struggled with the reading, Lentz and Pander Maat observed. "There were many hesitations and sometimes he seemed surprised that a sentence suddenly came to an end or was followed up. This year, the king skipped through the difficult text quite well. He faltered less and although the sentences contained many listings, he generally read them fluently. Noteworthy was that for the first time, he wore glasses while reading. Perhaps this helped him with the recitation."