ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Jacob Eisenstein, welcome to the program.
JACOB EISENSTEIN: Thanks.
SIEGEL: And first, those New Yorkers who were doing suttin, what does that mean?
EISENSTEIN: You have a standard form, something, which is used throughout the U.S. You have more phoneticized forms that are spelled more how they might be pronounced, like sumthin, S-U-M-T-H-I-N. And then we have a very specific form to New York City, suttin, which is really almost never used outside of sort of the immediate area around New York City.
SIEGEL: What's another pretty good regionalism that you discovered?
EISENSTEIN: Well, one that we were expecting to find because we had some evidence from speech is a word called hella, which, you know, if you spent any time living in Northern California, people tend to associate with the Northern Californian spoken dialect.
EISENSTEIN: On the other hand, we found things that really seem unconnected to speech at all. The example you mentioned at the beginning, koo, which you could start with a C or with a K, it's really impossible to speak that difference, I think.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SIEGEL: You should hope.
EISENSTEIN: So this is something that I think is really unique to, maybe to social media or to written communication.
SIEGEL: Anything in here that truly surprised you about the differences that have developed so quickly on Twitter?
EISENSTEIN: There are other forms that have the same meaning, that are much more regionally distinct, and unfortunately, most of these forms are things that you can't say on the radio, but again, things that would really never find their way into a spoken conversation.
SIEGEL: As you are applying computational research to linguistics, I mean, do you find that something different has happened here, that first email, then texting, then Twitter, with all of its improvised shorthand and creative misspellings, is in fact making written language more like spoken language?
EISENSTEIN: And now, through social media, we're starting to see that in written language, too.
SIEGEL: Well, Jacob Eisenstein, thank you very much for talking with us about regional dialects in Twitter.
EISENSTEIN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Unidentified Group: (Singing) Tweetle-dee-tweetle-dee-tweet. Tweetle- dee-tweetle-dee-tweet. Tweetle-dee-tweetle-dee-tweet. Tweetle-dee- tweetle-dee-tweet. Tweetle-dee-tweetle-dee-tweet. Tweetle-dee-tweetle- dee-tweet. Tweet. Tweet.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
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