I/me/my and presidential candidates

1 Nov

As a follow up to my work on “strength” and weakness” in presidential debates and the Language Log’s Obama Pronouns Again post. The question here: how many first person pronouns do various candidates use? Here I’m defining first person pronouns as I/me/my/myself/mine.

There are 16,076 first person pronouns used by all the debaters and questioners since 1960. But users have very different numbers of words total. Obama has 43,863 words across all debates while Kennedy only has 18,264 words.

Since Obama has 7.73% of all the words in the corpus, we’d expect him to use 7.73% * 16,076 = ~1,242 first person pronouns (if everything were even). But he actually just uses 1,022 (about 82% of what we’d expect).

In the table below, I’m going to report all of the people who have at least 7,500 words. In it, you see that the big users are the Bushes, Dole, and Clinton. The big underuser is Jim Lehrer (he has a lot of words because he’s moderated multiple times–and as a moderator we *would* expect him not to be talking about himself all that much; notice that vice presidential candidates also tend to use fewer first person pronouns, as we’d probably expect).

For thoughts about what first person pronoun uses *mean*, I strongly encourage you to check out James Pennebaker’s guest post on the Language Log. Just because you use a lot of “I/etc” doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist/dominant/arrogant.

Speaker Observed FPP Total words Percent of corpus Expected FPP Obs/Exp
BUSH-GHW 1444 32190 5.67% 911.51 1.58
DOLE 597 15184 2.67% 429.96 1.39
CLINTON 1116 29419 5.18% 833.04 1.34
BUSH-GW 1482 40153 7.07% 1136.99 1.30
KERRY 754 20985 3.70% 594.22 1.27
PEROT 523 15027 2.65% 425.51 1.23
ROMNEY 778 24421 4.30% 691.52 1.13
MCCAIN 639 20205 3.56% 572.14 1.12
GORE 972 31523 5.55% 892.62 1.09
REAGAN 669 21795 3.84% 617.16 1.08
DUKAKIS 418 14007 2.47% 396.63 1.05
QUAYLE 313 10605 1.87% 300.30 1.04
KENNEDY 501 18264 3.22% 517.17 0.97
BIDEN 385 14217 2.50% 402.58 0.96
FORD 393 15245 2.69% 431.69 0.91
NIXON 459 18597 3.28% 526.60 0.87
MONDALE 263 10793 1.90% 305.62 0.86
CARTER 587 24280 4.28% 687.53 0.85
OBAMA 1023 43863 7.73% 1242.05 0.82
PALIN 175 7714 1.36% 218.43 0.80
CHENEY 249 13380 2.36% 378.88 0.66
EDWARDS 129 8196 1.44% 232.08 0.56
LEHRER 205 16574 2.92% 469.32 0.44

 

 

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One Response to “I/me/my and presidential candidates”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bossy pants: How do superiors and subordinates talk? « Corpus linguistics - November 5, 2012

    […] First person pronouns (“Is Obama all about Obama?” Nope.): https://corplinguistics.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/firstpersondebaters/ […]

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