The Secret Life Of Pronouns

The Secret Life Of Pronouns

What Our Words Say About Us

Book - 2011
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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.

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 leader's use of pronouns could reliably presage whether he led his country into war? You'll learn why it's bad when politicians use "we" instead of "I," what Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common, and how Ebenezer Scrooge's 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.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2011
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9781608194803
1608194809
Branch Call Number: 425.55
Characteristics: xii, 352 pages :,illustrations, map ;,25 cm

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Bhulsey Jan 04, 2014

Fascinating, and a little creepy, The Secret Life of Pronouns gives the layperson an overview of what linguists are discovering and psychopaths already know instinctively: our language patterns reveal much of who we are. Whether by careful listening, or by computerized word counting, those who want to gain insight--or just an unfair advantage--can go spelunking in your subconscious with no more equipment than the words you choose and the paragraphs in which they appear.

The word-counting and analysis of author James W. Pennebaker and his students shows how "I" word usage means much, much more than you think, and a good deal of it counter-intuitive, to boot. That's the fascinating part.

Some of the work cited in this book will probably inform computer programs that will soon enough be able to identify you through your writing style, no matter how many internet personae you adopt. That's the creepy part.

In these days of citizen uprisings and anonymous internet free speech, I fear for the future of rabble rousing.

s
stjoshi
Jul 25, 2012

insightful, about how our personality affects our word choice

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