Twitter is full of regional 'accents,' study finds

Jan 11, 2011 By JENNIFER C. YATES , Associated Press

Tweeting about what club "y'all" are going to tonight? Must be from the South. Looking forward to "suttin" special? Then you probably live in New York. Think that new movie was "koo?" Northern California.

The words you write on can tell people more than just the status of your relationship or how you like the latest Bon Jovi CD. It may just indicate not only how you're living, but where you're living in the U.S.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University examined 380,000 messages from Twitter during one week in March 2010 and found that the social networking site is full of its own kinds of geographical dialects.

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

The 4.5 million words the researchers examined were full of similar examples. Some were obvious - like "y'all" in the South or "yinz" in Pittsburgh - and some more mysterious. The word "suttin" was found over and over in New York City, a shorthand for "something."

Jacob Eisenstein, a post-doctoral fellow of computer science in Carnegie Mellon's Machine Learning Department, and his colleagues were able to analyze the geotags attached to Twitter messages sent from mobile phones for the study. In all, they looked at 4.5 million words.

"Some of what we found really just confirms previous intuitions, but some things were much more specific for social media," said Eisenstein, noting the phrase "very tired."

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.)"

Some of the differences across Twitter can be explained by the need to write concisely to fit the site's 140-character limit. But others, not so much.

While using "u" in place of the two-character longer "you" is pretty common, a lot of New Yorkers do the opposite and lengthen the word to "youu." Or even emphasize "I" by writing two of them - as in "II."

Scott Kiesling, associate professor of linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh, said social media provides researchers lots of easily obtainable data in which they can explore and examine how people are speaking. He said the next step is examining whether these phrases spread like "pancake batter hitting a pan or hop from city to city" - if they spread at all.

"That's sort of the big question," Kiesling said. He said there's a burgeoning interest among linguists to study online speech more closely, and noted a conference this year at Georgetown University that will be examining language and new media.

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.

"One thing I think that it shows is that people really have a need to communicate their identity - their cultural identity and their geographic identity in ," he said.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: http://www.ml.cmu.edu/

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

2009: the Year of Twitter

Nov 30, 2009

The year has not yet ended but Microsoft says "Twitter" was among the top searches of 2009 on its new search engine Bing and a company which monitors language has crowned it the top word of the year.

Taciturn Armstrong sparks Twitter media boycott

May 22, 2009

Lance Armstrong's refusal to speak directly to the press at the Tour of Italy has sparked a boycott by some sections of the Italian and anglophone media of the American's online messages.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.