A recent study out of Harvard confirms Twitter is all vanity. This is not a big surprise to the dictionary team at Oxford University Press. OUP lexicographers have been monitoring more than 1.5 million random tweets Since January 2009 and have noticed any number of interesting facts about the impact of Twitter on language usage. For example the 500 words most frequently used words on Twitter are significantly different from the top 500 words in general English text. At the very top, there are many of the usual suspects: “the”, “to”, “as”, “and”, “in”… though “I” is right up at number 2, whereas for general text it is only at number 10. No doubt this reflects on the intrinsically solipsistic nature of Twitter. The most common word is “the”, which is the same in general English.
Since January OUP’s dictionary team has sorted through many random tweets. Here are the basic numbers:
- Total tweets = 1,496,981
- Total sentences = 2,098,630
- Total words = 22,431,033
- Average words per tweet = 14.98
- Average sentences per tweet = 1.40
- Average words per sentence in Twitter= 10.69
- Average words per sentence in general usage = 22.09
Other interesting tidbits include:
- Verbs are much more common in their gerund form in Twitter than in general text. “Going”, “getting” and “watching” all appear in the top 100 words or so.
- “Watching”, “trying”, “listening”, “reading” and “eating” are all in the top 100 first words, revealing just how often people use Twitter to report on whatever they are experiencing (or consuming) at the time.
- Evidence of greater informality than general English: “ok” is much more common, and so is “f***”.
And that is how we roll here at OUP, monitoring new social media and the changes in the English language up to the minute. Tweet on.