Bloggers' Entries Help Oxford Track Language for Dictionaries: Updates on the Information Profession-And SLA

Information Outlook, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Bloggers' Entries Help Oxford Track Language for Dictionaries: Updates on the Information Profession-And SLA


To understand how the English language is developing, researchers at Oxford Dictionaries monitor how it is being used by everyone, everywhere, every day. They look at newspapers, magazines, and fiction--and blogs.

Here's a report from the people at Oxford:

Since January 2000, researchers have fed more 1.8 billion words of what people around the world are writing and saying into the Oxford English Corpus, an electronic database that makes it possible to see exactly how and why English is changing.

Comparing blogs with other sorts of writing helps researchers identify patterns in the language.

Me, Myself, I

Bloggers are interested in themselves. The pronoun "me" is five times more likely to be used in blogs than in other sorts of writing, while "myself" and "I" are both significantly more used by bloggers.

Bloggers also appear more interested in expressing opinions than in talking about facts. Adjectives such as "stupid," "lovely," "nice," "interesting," "odd," and "wonderful" are staple words in a blogger's vocabulary.

"Stuff" is the sort of vague word that many writers love to hate, but bloggers just love it. "Stuff" is more than five times as common in blogs as in other writing. Moreover, bloggers routinely use vague adverbs such as "somewhere" and "somehow."

The words most likely to appear in blogs, in order, are: "blogger," "blog," "s--t," "oh," "yeah," "stupid," "post," "ok," "stuff," "lovely," "myself," "update," "nice," "me," and "my."

Is there such a thing as "bloglish," and is it worse or better than other sorts of writing? Some have suggested that bloglish might be an inferior type of English--with more spelling mistakes and careless, unimaginative writing. Oxford research has found that bloggers have a broadly similar range of vocabulary to other writers, and their level of misspellings and typos is not much higher.

This suggests that most bloggers take their roles as writers seriously, and they're talking about serious topics. The level of political engagement and discussion of contemporary politics is evidenced by the prevalence of key proper names such as "Iraq," "Bush," and so on.

However, blogs are not professionally edited, and as such, they offer excellent evidence of the changing way that people are using the language. For dictionary writers, blogs are a prime resource for tracing the most recent changes in the language; and there is no doubt that some of these trends will find their way into future dictionaries.

For example, Oxford is looking at the word "'minuscule": many people use the incorrect spelling "miniscule." But looking at the Oxford English Corpus as a whole, the "i" form is more common, and in the blog section it swamps the "u" spelling--there are more than twice as many "i" spellings.

Blog Trivia

* There are now more than 70 million blogs worldwide.

* 120,000 blogs created per day worldwide.

* About 1.5 million postings are made each day.

* Japanese is currently the top language for blogs, with 37 percent.

* English is second with 36 percent, followed by Chinese, Italian, and Spanish.

Disasters Attract Top News Interest

News of disasters has topped reader interest over the last two decades, according to a new report prepared for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

In 165 surveys of Americans conducted since 1986, nearly four in 10 people (39 percent) have followed news of disasters "very closely."

The next top categories are money (34 percent), conflict (33 percent), and political news (22 percent). …

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Bloggers' Entries Help Oxford Track Language for Dictionaries: Updates on the Information Profession-And SLA
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