Another in the series. James Pennebaker’s The Secret Life of Pronouns turned out to contain far more psychology and far less linguistic esoterica. It’s a fascinating and original view on the uses of language.
The theory: a connection exists between a writer’s use of certain ordinary words – what he calls function words — such as “I,” “an,” “the,” etc. and personality traits. Pennebaker reveals that in the “beautifully crafted” Gettysburg Address those function words appear far more often than the mega words (my term) of “battlefield,” “living,” and “freedom.”
One of the benefits of the book is access to the exercises that he and his colleagues used to draw their conclusions about love, lies, and leadership. The “analyzer” determines the writer’s need for achievement, power, and affiliation.
Secret Life came out in 2011. If they haven’t already, Pennebaker et al. need to run Trump’s tweets and “speeches” through the analyzer. High need for power and zero for the others, maybe? They were prophetic about how regional function word analysis tracked the 2016 election map so Trumpalizer could represent a public service.
Altogether, the book is worth the sometimes slow going.