Linguists and lexicographers are turning to a new research area to learn about the behavior of words and the way the language system works — Twitter feeds:
These have the advantage of providing high volumes of very up-to-date examples of language in use. Some of this data is used for what is known as ‘sentiment analysis’, as a way of discovering people’s attitudes on various topics, and tweets have even been used (with some success) to predict the movement of the stock market.
It’s being used for linguistic research as well:
One interesting project is looking at differences in language use between men and women. By analysing millions of Twitter messages where the writer can be reliably categorised as male or female, the researchers are able to compare the way particular words or phrases are used. They have produced a website where you can key in words and compare their frequency according to the gender of the writer. Try looking, for example, at these four words of enthusiastic approval, to see which are used more by women and which are favoured by men: lovely, great, brilliant, fabulous.