Twitter has become a fixture in the lives of nearly anyone with computer or smartphone access. The 140-character “micro-blog” is also one of the leading technological tools in helping to spread culture trends and other related media across the globe. It appears “Black Twitter” also is the birthplace of contemporary slang.
According to a recent study, African-Americans are leading the charge in changing the language landscape, reports New Scientist.
Jacob Eisenstein, Assistant Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, runs the Computational Linguistics Laboratory. Essentially speaking, Eisenstein studies language with a heavy focus on how it plays out in social media and other areas. In the paper titled,“Mapping The Geographical Diffusion of New Words,” the study from the professor and his team (comprised of researchers from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University) was built by examining over 30 million tweets over a 17-month period between December 2009 and May 2011.
From the abstract, the goal of the study is (kind of) clear:
Language in social media is rich with linguistic innovations, most strikingly in the new words and spellings that constantly enter the lexicon. Despite assertions about the power of social media to connect people across the world, we find that many of these neologisms are restricted to geographically compact areas. In this paper, we show how an autoregressive model of word frequencies in social media can be used to induce a network of linguistic influence between American cities.
The group worked from the standpoint that most slang is birthed from the dialect of minorities. “Many words and phrases have entered the standard English lexicon from dialects associated with minority groups,” says the paper of the cultural impact and inner workings behind certain words. Using a complex mathematical model, it was determined that cities with large African-American populations looked to have a clear advantage sparking new words.
Eisenstein is further researching if language spreads because of Twitter, or rather, if the online models suggest that big cities may have a handle on what’s relevant in the world of of linguistics.
Source: Hip Hop Wired
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