I was interested to discover that there are regional dialects within Twitter. These are similar to “y’all” (if you are from the South) or pronouncing “house” as “hoose” (if you are from Canada). Surprisingly, however, research indicates that these regional differences are almost completely unconnected from spoken language. A study has been undertaken at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science to discover these dialects. I first learned of this from National Public Radio on January 18, 2011. The full transcript of this program can be found at: You have an accent, even of Twitter.
Jacob Eisenstein, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon, was interviewed. His team studied one week’s worth of data from Twitter — more than 380,000 tweets from 9,500 users…4.5 million words!
My mind is suitably boggled!
Some words were obvious like “y’all” in the South or “yinz” in Pittsburgh or the usual regional divides in references to soda, pop and Coke. However, Twitter users are standardizing on some new words of their own….region by region.
The word “suttin” was found over and over in New York City as a shorthand for “something.” The standard form of the word (something) is used throughout the U.S. but various non-standard versions like “sumthin” are also common. However, Eisenstein says “suttin” is almost never used outside the immediate area around New York City.
Another example: “cool” in Southern California is “coo” but in Northern California it is “koo.” And a final example would be the variety of ways people indicate that something is funny. “LOL” is a standard term used throughout the U.S., but Eisenstein says that there are other forms that are regionally distinct. Unfortunately, most of them are unsuitable for polite company.
With all the improvised shorthand and creative misspellings, Twitter is being studied to see what impact social media is making on the written language.
By the way, in addition to NPR, a January 11th article by the Associated Press was also used in sourcing this material. Full article may be found at “Y’all like Twitter?”
For a more complete treatment of this topic, I refer you to the Carnegie Mellon University web site: CMU Research Finds Regional Dialect Are Alive and Well on Twitter.
You can also follow the CMU School of Computer Science on Twitter @SCSatCMU.