Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that whether you used “koo” or “coo” to say something is cool gives away your location just as accurately as if you had tweeted it.
A new study reveals that regional slang is alive and well – on Twitter. Certain dialects have distinctive slang – such as the Southern “y’all” – which researchers have shown is used on Twitter as well as in everyday conversation.
Spoken slang such as Pittsburgh’s “yinz”and the South’s “y’all” have moved from spoken word to tweets. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that regions are developing their own Twitter-based (i.e. not spoken but only typed) dialects.
“Koo” is a Northern Californian Twitter dialect, for instance, while “Coo” is specific to Southern California. And New Yorkers have taken the general “sumthin” and made it their own by tweeting “suttin” instead.
The commonly-used LOL is taken by Washington DC’ers and transformed into something a little more vulgar – LLS (the urban dictionary has a definition).
The researchers say that the different dialects appearing on Twitter are influenced by both the 140-character limit as well as regional dialects.
This has interesting implications for linguists and those studying the evolution of language. Regional dialects have been around for centuries, but text-based dialects seem to be something new.
If Twitter is influencing the direction of language, this could affect more than just how people use the restricted space of 140-characters.
Imagine if LOL and “suttin” became acceptable-use words in academic papers, newspaper (or online) reporting, and government publications.
One might argue that slang has really never been accepted in these types of publications, so there is no reason to assume it would begin to seep in now. However, the argument could be made that because these are text-based slang words, they might transfer more readily into other text-based documents.
Don’t we rely on written historical records for our understanding of the past? What if historical records of our time were to be reduced to Twitter and other social media? It would give a glimpse into a significant portion of our culture, and it would highlight the written slang that we have begun adopting at a record-fast pace.
Terms like LOL and using “ur” instead of “your” might seem innocuous, but there are many detractors to this type of text-based slang. Some argue that it dilutes language, and that because it is used largely by younger people it might affect their learning to spell and use correct grammar when it counts.
However, Twitter slang is here to stay, as long as Twitter is! We’d best get used to engaging in a variety of dialects online, and returning to mingle in our own dialect offline.