Mapping lexical dialect variation in British English using Twitter

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  • Univ Sheffield
  • University of Manchester
  • University of South Carolina


There is a growing trend in regional dialectology to analyse large corpora of social media data, but it is unclear if the results of these studies can be generalized to language as a whole. To assess the generalizability of Twitter dialect maps, this paper presents the first systematic comparison of regional lexical variation in Twitter corpora and traditional survey data. We compare the regional patterns found in 139 lexical dialect maps based on a 1.8 billion word corpus of geolocated UK Twitter data and the BBC Voices dialect survey. A spatial analysis of these 139 map pairs finds a broad alignment between these two data sources, offering evidence that both approaches to data collection allow for the same basic underlying regional patterns to be identified. We argue that these results license the use of Twitter corpora for general inquiries into regional lexical variation and change.


Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Artificial Intelligence
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2019


  • Social Media, Twitter, British English, dialectology, big data, Lexical variation, spatial analysis, sociolinguistics