The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

Hardback

By (author) James W. Pennebaker

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  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press
  • Format: Hardback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 236mm x 34mm | 558g
  • Publication date: 2 February 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1608194809
  • ISBN 13: 9781608194803
  • Illustrations note: B&W illus throughout
  • Sales rank: 74,511

Product description

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.

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Author information

James W. Pennebaker is the chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of "Writing to Heal and Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions," which has been translated into a dozen languages. You can analyze your own language using his Web site, http: //www.secretlifeofpronouns.com/

Review quote

"American American-Statesman" #1 Bestseller "Penetrating ...lively and accessible ...Paying closer attention to function words [Pennebaker] advises, can help us understand the social relations that those words reflect. Unfortunately, we might not be able to pay proper attention until we're all equipped with automatic word counters. Until that day, we have Pennebaker as an indefatigable guide to the little words that he boldly calls 'keys to the soul.'""--New York Times Book Review ""Anyone who reads his book will become much more conscious about how he or she uses words when talking to friends, when talking to the public, or when writing for the public ... Pennebaker's new book is fascinating and fun."--"Austin American-Statesman ""Provocative ... eye-opening ... "The Secret Life of Pronouns" is studded with muse-worthy examples of language's hidden power.""--Dallas Morning News " "Ingenious"--Slate "Interesting and provocative ... A good nonfiction book often feels like a new lens prescription: You marvel at suddenly being able to see what was always there. On this count "The Secret Life of Pronouns" succeeds. You find yourself paying a greater degree of attention to even the least-regarded words of daily interaction ... It is an apt reminder that we express ourselves in more ways than we know.""--Wall Street Journal " "[An] intriguing treatise...accessible, entertaining...Pennebaker's take on the unexpected importance of throw-away words isthe kind of fun pop linguistics readers devour."-- "Publishers Weekly" "An extraordinary look at ordinary words.""--Booklist """ "The author successfully demonstrates that seemingly innocuous function words--I, me, you, he, can, for, it, of, this--play a crucial role in understanding identity, detecting emotions and realizing intention; they also provide important clues about social and cultural cohesion ... Convincing and compelling...Essential reading for psychotherapists and readers interested in the connection between