The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. PennebakerWe spend our lives communicating. In the last fifty years, weve zoomed through radically different forms of communication, from typewriters to tablet computers, text messages to tweets. We generate more and more words with each passing day. Hiding in that deluge of language are amazing insights into who we are, how we think, and what we feel.
In The Secret Life of Pronouns, social psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics-in essence, counting the frequency of words we use-to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence. Our most forgettable words, such as pronouns and prepositions, can be the most revealing: their patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints.
Using innovative analytic techniques, Pennebaker X-rays everything from Craigslist advertisements to the Federalist Papers-or your own writing, in quizzes you can take yourself-to yield unexpected insights. Who would have predicted that the high school student who uses too many verbs in her college admissions essay is likely to make lower grades in college? Or that a world leaders use of pronouns could reliably presage whether he led his country into war? Youll learn why its bad when politicians use we instead of I, what Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common, and how Ebenezer Scrooges syntax hints at his self-deception and repressed emotion. Barack Obama, Sylvia Plath, and King Lear are among the figures who make cameo appearances in this sprightly, surprising tour of what our words are saying-whether we mean them to or not.
The Power of Pronouns
So was James Pennebaker. Pennebaker, psychology department chair at the University of Texas at Austin, has made his mark on social psychology in the last 30 years. His latest book, The Secret Life of Pronouns , is a treasure map to his most recent research. Pronouns — I, she, it — are the most obvious function words. Other word categories important for their function, rather than meaning, include articles, negations, and quantifiers.
By James W.
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What our Words Say About us
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. - When President Obama addressed the nation after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, some conservative reactions to his rhetoric were all too predictable. Regrettably, none of these pundits have bothered to look into how Obama might compare with his predecessors.
Analyzing the subtle linguistic patterns in everything from Craigslist ads to college admission essays to political speeches to Lady Gaga lyrics, Pennebaker offers hard evidence for the insight that our most unmemorable words — pronouns, prepositions, prefixes — can be most telling of true sentiment and intention. One of the most interesting results was part of a study my students and I conducted dealing with status in email correspondence. Basically, we discovered that in any interaction, the person with the higher status uses I-words less yes, less than people who are low in status. Scientific American has an excellent interview with Pennebaker:. As I pondered these findings, I started looking at how people used pronouns in other texts — blogs, emails, speeches, class writing assignments, and natural conversation. Remarkably, how people used pronouns was correlated with almost everything I studied. For example, use of first-person singular pronouns I, me, my was consistently related to gender, age, social class, honesty, status, personality, and much more.
Buy from other retailers. A surprising and entertaining explanation of how the words we use even the ones we don't notice reveal our personalities, emotions, and identities. We spend our lives communicating. In the last fifty years, we've zoomed through radically different forms of communication, from typewriters to tablet computers, text messages to tweets. We generate more and more words with each passing day. Hiding in that deluge of language are amazing insights into who we are, how we think, and what we feel. Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics-in essence, counting the frequency of words we use-to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence.
Partly a research journey, the book traces the discovery of the links between function words and social and psychological states. Written for a general audience, the book takes the reader on a remarkable and often unexpected journey into the minds of authors, poets, lyricists, politicians, and everyday people through their use of words. At the heart of this book is the idea that our words leave indelible fingerprints of personality, our relationships and backgrounds, and even our plans for the future. Once you see the power of pronouns, articles, and other function words, you will better understand:. Lively and accessible