These guys have worked out how to measure power differences between individuals using the patterns of words they speak or write. In other words, they say the style of language during a conversation reveals the pecking order of the people talking.
"We show that in group discussions, power differentials between participants are subtly revealed by how much one individual immediately echoes the linguistic style of the person they are responding to," say Kleinberg and co.
The key to this is an idea called linguistic co-ordination, in which speakers naturally copy the style of their interlocutors. Human behaviour experts have long studied the way individuals can copy the body language or tone of voice of their peers, some have even studied how this effect reveals the power differences between members of the group.
Finally got around to reading this gem from Hacker News.