'Tweets reveal how American English develops'

For example, they found that the word 'baeless', which mean 'to be single', originated from Deep South, while the word 'mutuals', which is short for 'mutual friends', originated from the West Coast. (Reuters file photo)

Analysis of billions of words contained within millions of tweets posted across the US between 2013 and 2014 has unveiled the regions from which new words tend to originate, scientists said Thursday.

The researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK used advanced computer technology to analyse the geocoded tweets which revealed the precise location of the user at the time of posting.

They tracked the origin of 54 newly emerging words in American English.

For example, they found that the word 'baeless', which mean 'to be single', originated from Deep South, while the word 'mutuals', which is short for 'mutual friends', originated from the West Coast.

Geo-coded data from Twitter allowed them to create maps for these 54 words, showing how the phrases had spread across the country over time.

Applying modern computational techniques to the study of language variation and change, the team identified that development of new words in Modern American English centred on five regions: The West Coast, the Northeast, the Mid Atlantic, the Deep South, and the Gulf Coast.

"This is the first time that such a large sample of emerging words or any type of linguistic innovation has been mapped in one language," said Jack Grieve, a professor at the University of Birmingham.

"Twitter is only one variety of language, but given that almost all these words are used in everyday speech, we believe our results reflect the words' general spread in American English," Grieve said.

"Our study provides a framework for future research by showing how the origin and spread of emerging words can be measured and mapped," he said.

The findings, published in the Journal of English Linguistics, also challenge existing theories of the spread of new words.

They show that new words do not simply spread out unconstrained from their source, nor do they spread from one large city to the next, as predicted by previously developed theories for the spread of new words, known as the 'wave' and 'gravity' models.

The study found the spread of new words is constrained by cultural patterns. New words tend to spread within cultural regions, before reaching the rest of the US.

It also found that African American English was a major source of lexical innovation on US Twitter.

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'Tweets reveal how American English develops'

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