In this post on language log, Ben Zimmer elaborates on this op-ed piece that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times. The language log post elaborates on and links to some of the research that was only briefly mentioned in the op-ed piece. Here’s a charming example of the elaboration:
Eisenstein and Bamman are currently conducting research with Tyler Schnoebelen of Stanford University that looks at how gender plays a role in language variation on Twitter. But they're going well beyond simply analyzing which language forms are associated with women and which are associated with men. Using information on people's Twitter followers, they can also take into consideration the gender makeup of people's networks. Thus, a man with a predominantly female network may show different linguistic patterns compared to a man with a male or mixed network. Earlier today, at NWAV 40, Schnoebelen presented some of his research on one aspect of Twitter discourse, emoticons. The abstract of his paper includes this great line: "Emoticons with noses are historically older." It's true! Not only that, but emoticons with noses, like :-), show distinctly different patterns of distribution than the noseless kind, like :) . Noseless emoticons tend to be used by younger Twitter users and are associated with more informal discourse. Women use them more than men, too, but women use more of all types of emoticons. I'll be looking forward to the definitive study of emoticon nosedness.