Your tweets may be giving away more about where you live than you realize — and no, we’re not talking about your GPS location (although that’s kind of a giveaway, too).
With Twitter having more in common with spoken English than written English, it’s no wonder that regional dialect often comes across in tweets — but what does this mean for language?
“Twitter is spreading regionalisms across state and city lines, but they’re still staying within social and demographic groups,” according to a recent study.
Not only does this suggest that certain regions have a stronger cultural influence than others, but it also shows that language spreads online in pretty much the same way as it does offline.
Perhaps demographic characteristics will shed light on the way slang and abbreviations move between regions — race, age, gender and politics have to play a role in all this.
We’re not brought up to write as we speak; we’re taught formal English in school, and until the rise of instant communication (texting, instant messaging and social media), written language “wasn’t really free to express personal identity in the way that spoken language has been throughout history.”
So, despite having only 140 characters to play with, Twitter may actually be liberating language rather than constraining it.
And perhaps the Americanization of other countries could be an area of future research — examining the use of English by non-native speakers, as well as the way (for example) British, Canadian and Australian users present themselves online.
For some people, Twitter may actually discourage the use of regional dialect — if you’re communicating to a global audience, you need to make yourself understood to as many people as possible.
Of course, this won’t be an issue for everyone, but for those who use Twitter for more than just chatting with nearby friends, this is definitely worth considering. If you’re hoping for an online audience, the least you can do is make your tweets widely accessible.
What do you think?
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