go awn: Sociophonetic Variation in Variant Spellings on Twitter

Titlego awn: Sociophonetic Variation in Variant Spellings on Twitter
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsTatman, R.
Conference NameNorthwest Linguistic Conference
Keywordscorpus linguistics, microblogging, phonetics, phonology, social media, sociolinguistics

Background: Variation in speech and variant spellings in writing (e.g. “becawse”, “go awn”) play similar social roles (Sebba 2003, Paolillo 2001). This study extends that parallel by showing that variant spellings are used a systematic way that mirrors variation in speech. Methodology: Tweets were selected that showed a distinction between /ɑ/and /ɔ/– which is found in African American English and the Southern American English (Labov, Ash & Boburg 2005). The Twitter public API was used to extract recent tweets that used an “aw” spelling of one of the six most frequent /ɔ/ words in English. The tweets were then hand-sorted to remove tweets where the target word occurred as an acronym, name, non-English term, typo or URL. The resulting 74 tweets were hand-coded for the number and type of variant spellings found. Results: Half of the tweets (37/74) included more than one variant spelling. The most commonly encoded variables were th-stopping (19 instances), g-dropping (12 instances), r-lessness (10 instances), cluster reduction (8 instances), and /ai/ monophthongization (4 instances). An example is shown in (1). (1) hype hayed foah dat becawse it was 8 bucks foah 2 yeahs and w da jets i like readin about da prospects ogay (JPG 2015) “I paid for that because it was eight bucks for two years and with the Jets I like reading about the prospects, okay?” While Twitter does not collect ethnographic information and geographic data was only available for one tweet (which was from Louisiana), this collection of features is consistent with those observed in African American English (Cutler 1999, Rickford & Labov 1999) and—with some exceptions—Southern American English (Labov, Ash & Boburg 2005). This suggests that Twitter users who use variant spellings do so in a systematic way that reflects patterns observed in speech.