David Bamman on Characterizing English Variation on Social Media

25 Apr, 2021

David Bamman on Characterizing English Variation on Social Media

BCNM member and School of Information professor David Bamman co-published a paper titled, "Characterizing English Variation across Social Media Communities with BERT." The paper explores English language and community behavior across a variety of Reddit communities. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, and it is a machine learning technique that allows computers to process and analyze large amounts of human language data. The paper is of particular significance to anyone with interests in linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligience, culture, and society. The paper sheds light community language behavior among online network users.

From the paper:

Much previous work characterizing language variation across Internet social groups has focused on the types of words used by these groups. We extend this type of study by employing BERT to characterize variation in the senses of words as well, analyzing two months of English comments in 474 Reddit communities. The specificity of different sense clusters to a community, combined with the specificity of a community's unique word types, is used to identify cases where a social group's language deviates from the norm. We validate our metrics using user-created glossaries and draw on sociolinguistic theories to connect language variation with trends in community behavior. We find that communities with highly distinctive language are medium-sized, and their loyal and highly engaged users interact in dense networks.

Read the full paper here !