The Department of English Language and Linguistics hosted a one-day workshop in May 2016 on using Twitter and related social media for linguistic research. The scope of the ‘Using Twitter for linguistic research: benefits and difficulties’ conference covered the syntax, semantics, pragmatics and discourse of tweets in English and other modern languages, as well as methods of collecting and analysing a large corpus of tweets.
In recent years, researchers in a number of fields, including sociology, psychology and political science, have turned to Twitter to investigate how ideas, news, and opinions spread in real time (DeAndrea et al 2012, Tumasjan et al 2010, Huberman et al 2009). Unlike other text corpora, which are static, Twitter corpora are collected from a continuous stream of tweets occurring in real time, and therefore provide a unique opportunity to track changes in response to specific events.
For linguists, Twitter can provide access to a large body of language data that (1) comes from a wide sample of the world’s population of English speakers and (2) contains a high proportion of “everyday” language. This makes Twitter different from most of the corpora used in corpus linguistics research, which are often collections of news articles or texts from other narrow genres, and which do not reflect the most contemporary uses of language.
Funded by the Faculty of Humanities and the Centre for Language and Linguistics at Kent, the conference was organised by Dr Christina Kim and Dr Laura Bailey (Kent) and Dr Mercedes Durham (Cardiff). Full details, including the programme, can be found on the conference website.