What Twitter Says to Linguists

For researchers studying the use of language in today's networked world, social media is an invaluable tool

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Another complication is that people write on Twitter in ways they never have before, which is why researchers at Carnegie Mellon developed an automated tagger that can identify bits of tweetspeak that aren't standard English, like Ima (which serves as a subject, verb and preposition to convey "I am going to"). The need for that program illustrates how hard it can be to process tweets but also shows how revolutionary the medium has been. "For almost its entire history, written language has had this weird bias, where it's only used in formal situations," says Georgia Tech's Eisenstein. "Social media has taken the informal peer-to-peer interaction that might have been almost exclusively spoken and put it in a written form. The result of that is a burst of creativity." And, of course, a language bonanza.

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