Mark Liberman, over at Language Log, is discussing a content analysis of pop lyrics. Are trends in cultural narcissism picked up by the changing frequency of first-person pronouns? It seems like an interesting idea, but Liberman shows that their data analysis and interpretation is lacking. The original study claims to find a steady increase in the use of first-person pronouns since 1980, but, as Mark shows, their own data points to a decline in recent years.
I’ll add data on published books from google ngrams to the discussion.
The graph above would suggest the trend in cultural narcissism is flat until the late nineties, and only then starts increasing. But maybe books are merely a lagging indicator relative to pop lyrics?
No, I’m afraid that can’t save the thesis either. Look what happens when I plot other pronouns:
Looks like a general increase in the use of pronouns in the late 1990s.