Individualism and First Person Pronoun Use in Written Texts Across Languages
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The previous studies showed that the use of first person singular pronoun, that is, I, primes the independent self, whereas the use of the first person plural pronoun, that is, we, primes the interdependent self. A different line of research discovered a strong correlation between societal level of individualism and the overall requirement of explicit personal pronoun use in a language. The present study provided a competitive test of these two hypotheses by utilizing Google Books Ngram database of published books in different languages. The sample consisted of published work in American English, British English, English publications other than American and British English, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, and Spanish corpora. The results extended the previous individual-level priming experiments on first person singular versus plural pronouns and showed that the relative percentage of first person singular pronoun use in written material across languages reflected the cultural-level individualism. However, there was not a reliable relation between the overall use of explicit pronouns and societal level of individualism.