Twitter was launched just seven years ago in 2006 and now it is one of the top Internet sites. Twitter is not yet the penultimate social media platform since many people still haven’t taken fully to micro-blogging. Nevertheless, there are 554,750,000 active Twitter users around the globe, and some of them have been serving as sources of information for researchers interested in studying linguistic trends.
Every single day, around 135,000 people sign up and 58 million tweets are posted in a 24-hour period at 9,100 tweets per second. Twitter has been instrumental in helping linguists understand how language has shifted both at the national and international level. Twitter is also being utilized to determine the reasons why certain terms become widespread and come to popular use better than others.
The origins of slang
One area where Twitter helped provide ample evidence is in the study on the origin of slang words. It was long speculated that American slang originated in urban areas with a high population density of African-Americans. Twitter provided proof that this popular belief has basis. Researchers investigated the terms used in Twitter as well as the metadata accompanying tweets and came up with convincing results. However, the number of African-Americans using Twitter is considerably larger than other ethnicities in the States and so this study may be a little biased.
Battle of the sexes
In 2010, one of the linguistic trends revealed in Twitter is the significant differences in the tweets posted by men and women. The main observation is that women use trendy, edgy, and more novel slang than men based on the tweets of 14,000 users. The same study also showed that women tend to use more expressive and emotional tools in their tweets. These include punctuation combinations, expressive lengthening of words, ellipses, emoticons, and abbreviations (e.g., OMG). On the other hand, men used more swear words, not necessarily in a vulgar way, but to emphasize a point.
The observations coincide with previous findings amongst linguists that women are keener on adopting the latest linguistic trends compared to men. Men pick them up much later. There is one more aspect where women come on top. Young urban females were identified as prime movers in linguistic innovations. So far, there are no definite answers as to why women have such capabilities. It was suggested that women are ahead in this respect because they are intimately involved in the formation of bonds between members of society. Whatever the reason is, there is no denying that where young women tweeters go, the rest soon follows.
Language clusters revealed
Some researchers came up with Twitter maps showing language clusters in major cities. A study by a University College London Ph.D. student and lecturer revealed that in London, 66 languages are used in tweets. Majority use English (92.5%) followed by Spanish, and then French. Turkish, Arabic, and Portuguese complete the top five.
Twitter is now handling 1.6 billion search inquiries everyday and even unregistered users can read tweets and get information even if they don’t want to participate in the ongoing discussions. There are many more areas of research that can be done on Twitter, and all shall reveal a wealth of useful information on how languages and human civilization have evolved.