Nav: Home

Canadians' and Americans' Twitter language mirrors national stereotypes, researchers find

November 21, 2018

HAMILTON, Nov. 21, 2018- A new study examining differences in the language used in nearly 40-million tweets suggests national stereotypes--Canadians tend to be polite and nice while Americans are negative and assertive--are reflected on Twitter, even if those stereotypes aren't necessarily accurate.

Linguistic experts from McMaster University used Twitter, one of the world's most popular social media platforms, to better understand national identity on a mass scale and where stereotypes might originate.

The researchers isolated the words, emoticons, and emojis used most disproportionately on Twitter by individuals from each country.

The findings, published online today in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest national stereotypes are grounded -at least partially--in the words we choose. The work builds on earlier research from 2016 when the same team analyzed 3 million tweets.

"The most distinctive word choices of Americans and Canadians on Twitter paint a very accurate and familiar picture of the stereotypes we associate with people from these nations," says Daniel Schmidtke, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at McMaster.

Canadians were far more positive on Twitter, using words such as: great, thanks, good, amazing, and happy. Americans tended to use more negative words like: hate, miss, mad, feel, swear, tired. Americans preferred emojis, whereas Canadians preferred emoticons. Americans also used more netspeak like 'lol', 'idk', and 'af'.

"It's tempting to think that Canadians tweet more nicely than Americans because they really are more nice than Americans," says Bryor Snefjella, the lead author of the study and graduate student in the Reading Lab in McMaster's Department of Linguistics and Languages, who was supervised by another co-author of the study, Victor Kuperman.

"But when we put all the data together, it suggests that something more complicated is happening," he says. The wrinkle is that other studies which have surveyed large numbers of Canadians and Americans have consistently shown that such national stereotypes are not accurate. There isn't any hard evidence to support that an average American's and average Canadian's personality traits are different.

"The Twitter behaviour we observe doesn't actually reflect the real underlying personality profile of an average American or Canadian," says Schmidtke.

To explore further, they exposed study participants to the most typical words and emojis from each nation. The participants were not told anything about how the words were chosen. They were then asked what the personality traits were of someone who often uses the most American and most Canadian words and emojis.

The results? Someone who uses very Canadian words has a personality matching the stereotype of a Canadian, and someone who uses very American words has a personality matching the stereotype of an American.

The team argues that their results show an identity construction strategy in action: Canadians and Americans may create their national character stereotype through their language use.

In future, researchers hope to compare other stereotypes between people in different sets of countries.
-end-
Attention editors: A high res photo of researchers Bryor Snefjella, Daniel Schmidtke, and Victor Kuperman, video and word clouds can be downloaded at this link: https://adobe.ly/2OIVB1X

Please credit McMaster University for photo, video

A copy of the study can be found here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0206188

McMaster University

Related Language Articles:

Chinese to rise as a global language
With the continuing rise of China as a global economic and trading power, there is no barrier to prevent Chinese from becoming a global language like English, according to Flinders University academic Dr Jeffrey Gil.
'She' goes missing from presidential language
MIT researchers have found that although a significant percentage of the American public believed the winner of the November 2016 presidential election would be a woman, people rarely used the pronoun 'she' when referring to the next president before the election.
How does language emerge?
How did the almost 6000 languages of the world come into being?
New research quantifies how much speakers' first language affects learning a new language
Linguistic research suggests that accents are strongly shaped by the speaker's first language they learned growing up.
Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.
Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.
Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.
Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.
Sign language reveals the hidden logical structure, and limitations, of spoken language
Sign languages can help reveal hidden aspects of the logical structure of spoken language, but they also highlight its limitations because speech lacks the rich iconic resources that sign language uses on top of its sophisticated grammar.
Lying in a foreign language is easier
It is not easy to tell when someone is lying.
More Language News and Language Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Processing The Pandemic
Between the pandemic and America's reckoning with racism and police brutality, many of us are anxious, angry, and depressed. This hour, TED Fellow and writer Laurel Braitman helps us process it all.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Invisible Allies
As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they've come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm. To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe's biggest foe. This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen and Pat Walters. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.