A new study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst chronicles the use of dialect in online communications using the Twitter app. The authors examined more than 59 million tweets by 2.8 million Twitter users. The goal of the study was to identify online language usage by African Americans so that search engines like Google will be better able to serve a more diverse population of users. The data will help computer programs recognize words, phrases and language patterns that are associated with language spoken by African Americans.
Lisa Green, director of the Center for the Study of African American Language at the University of Massachusetts and one of the authors of the study, notes that people from many different social groups use different language than is found in mainstream media, especially casually or among themselves. They discovered abbreviations and acronyms that are frequently used by African Americans that are not used by other racial or ethnic groups. “New semantics can be expanded very quickly if some expression is picked up from dialect by the larger community,” Dr. Green said. “As linguists, we are always interested in how language changes and now we are seeing some changes happening very quickly.”
Dr. Green joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts in 2006. She is a graduate of Grambling State University in Louisiana. She holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts.