2006-04-30

A linguistic win for W: or, "What 'I' Means"

This NYT article reports on a paper published in The Journal of Research in Personality in which Richard Slatcher analyzes Kerry's and W's political speech, determining that W's speech "was most like that of an older person, because, as people do when they age, he used fewer first-person singular words, more positive-emotion words, and had "a greater focus on the future...". Kerry's speech on the other hand was more like that of a depressed person, "because of his high use of first-person singular words, physical words like "ache" and negative-emotion words like "hate," along with low use of positive-emotion words, like "happy."

Interesting the relation between first person singular words and depression. It seems intuitive though at some level. The rest isn't so surprising. What is fun though is that W finally wins one in language, especially so given the drubbing he's taken since day 1 for his creative/special use of morphology and syntax.

FYI if you need a password to access the NYT article, please consult http://bugmenot.com/

24 Comments:

Blogger Ideott With None said...

Er... except if he was analyzing speeches, then Kerry and GW almost certainly didn't acutally write them.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Ideott With None said...

actually*

1:48 AM  
Blogger W1ll13 30% Hacker said...

The article doesn't say it was strictly speeches being analyzed. Rather, it says 'linguistic styles'. But even if it were strictly speeches being analyzed, one would still assume Bush and Kerry wouldn't be repeating (or reading) their speeches verbatim as written for them, so still allowing room for their personal styles to become apparent.

10:13 PM  
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Blogger Guy Barry said...

Have you heard of Ali G?
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Blogger john said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:01 PM  
Blogger john said...

Interesting linguistic analysis of the speeches. Never would have thought about it in that way- that the 1st person singular words would indicate a more depressive tone. It does make sense the more I think about it however.

John
Linguistics Blog

11:02 PM  
Blogger Michael Kline said...

I'm ready to have the letter W stricken from the alphabet altogether. It loses respect by its very nature.
It is not a double U (it's a double V), it's the only letter that does not employ itself in its own pronunciation, and is the only 3-syllable letter in the alphabet (the rest are 1). It wouldn't bother me if W was stricken from the White House as well....

3:39 PM  
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8:39 AM  
Blogger Linguistpro said...

No wonder. I have noticed that people with lower social status also use the first person form less eagerly at the presence of the people with higher social status. And depression is very often related to the self-disappointment of the same sort.

4:47 AM  
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