I was going to give it a rest with the AP-bashing, but over at Language Log, the Web's best linguistics blog (or at least the only one I read), Mark Liberman has a great post taking apart the psuedo-scientific analysis of Hillary Clinton's speech performed by the AP's Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier:
I think it's turning into a trend -- journalists are becoming linguists. Really bad linguists, but any sort of interest in the analysis of language and communication ought to be a good thing for the field, right? Unfortunately, in this case, it's a bad thing for the nation.
Liberman is unhappy with Fournier's claim that by counting the number of times Hillary Clinton used the word "I" in her speech on Tuesday he can discern whether she really wanted to support Obama:
As Media Matters pointed out, Mr. Fournier counted wrong: there were actually 21 instances of "I", not 17. (And neither Fournier nor Media Matters seems to have counted "me", "my", "mine" — but never mind). Media Matters argues that "contrary to Fournier's suggestion, Clinton's focus in most of those instances was not on herself, but on Obama and the election".
I only have a few minutes for blogging this morning, which is not enough time to evaluate their arguments. Instead, I'll offer the simplest Breakfast Experiment™ ever.
Hillary Clinton's DNC speech used "I" 21 times in 2269 words, for a rate of 9.26 nominative ego-references per thousand words.
Joe Biden's DNC speech used "I" 42 times in 2404 words, for a rate of 17.5 nominative ego-references per thousand words.
And Mr. Fournier's point was … Sorry, I forgot. Was it something about how delivering a speech with an unusually large number of self-references was Senator Clinton's "price" for endorsing Senator Obama?
Yes, yes it was:
The bill came due Tuesday. The crowd. The applause. The promise of a vote Wednesday, and a speech laced 17 times by some variation of the pronoun "I."