Twitter Language Differs Regionally, Except When It Doesn’t, According to Real Research


The least conclusive (but most fun!) study of the day is probably the one from Carnegie Mellon University, which says that Twitter has “geographical dialects,” but only sometimes. Researchers dug through 380,000 messages from one week back in March 2010, and concluded that you could sort of see some patterns, if you squint really hard. Findings include the word “y’all” in the South, “yinz” in Pittsburgh and “suttin,” meaning “something,” in New York City. Oh, rly?

But wait, there’s more:

Take the word cool. Southern Californians tend to write the shorthand “coo,” while their neighbors up north use the phonetic shorthand “koo.”

And pitting California against New York is always effective:

Northern Californians tend to substitute “hella” for very, whereas New Yorkers opt for “deadass” tired; those in Los Angeles would be more likely to follow the word tired with the abbreviation “af” — short for “as (expletive.)”

By “expletive,” they mean “fuck.” Probably!

New Yorkers were also seen to “lengthen” words like “‘youu’…or even emphasize ‘I’ by writing two of them — as in ‘II.'” If this all sounds a little specious, you might be right, according to the study:

…we caution that our findings are merely suggestive, and a more rigorous analysis must be undertaken before making definitive statements about the regional membership of individual terms.

And more doubts:

Eisenstein said some of the online “accents” mirror those in the spoken language, but not all. For example, many people in the Great Lakes region tend to have similar accents when speaking, but that wasn’t necessarily found to be true in the study, he said.

So, it’s maybes all around! But we’ll keep an eye on it 😉

Twitter is full of regional ‘accents,’ study finds [AP via NYO]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 11, 2011

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