Today I’m unveiling a little side project I’ve been doing off and on for the past few months, one that I previewed a bit in last week’s All of what sudden? post. It’s called SeeTweet, and it generates maps with the locations of the most recent tweets containing a search term. So if, for instance, you want to assess the geographical extent of a dialectal variant, you can. Let’s say you’ve been hearing about the needs done construction, as in

(1) Maybe the majority’s attitude needs adjusted

and now you want to know where people say something so silly. Well, SeeTweet can tell you:

Needs fixed map

Mapping "needs fixed" with SeeTweet

As you can see, it’s pretty well localized to a stretch from Iowa to central Pennsylvania, a region similar to the (North?) Midland dialect region.* Of course, this particular case doesn’t need SeeTweet. Murray, Frazer, and Simon wrote a series of papers detailing the geographic range of this and related usages (e.g., wants done) in the late 90s, and the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project has also mapped known usages of needs done. But whereas this previous work has required a lot of time and effort, SeeTweet provides a quick and easy approximation, a starting point for more advanced investigations.

It’s no replacement for the YGDP or the Dictionary of American Regional English, of course; it’s much noisier data than either of these projects. It can offer a different kind of view, though, one that can be assembled to track more ephemeral usages (e.g., event-related usages like “Carmaggedon” or “Jerry Meals“) in real-time, as well as assembling a lot of data on persistent usages (e.g., pop and soda).

So I’m hoping that you’ll be able to go out and use SeeTweet to look into the geographical distribution of something interesting, whether for academic purposes or just to waste time at the end of the week. I’ve put together some sample investigations in a SeeTweet gallery, and I’d love to see what sort of great uses you’ll put it to. If you find something neat, leave a comment here or in the gallery, or send an email to seetweetmaps@gmail.com.

[A couple of friends offered great advice/testing on earlier versions of SeeTweet and must be acknowledged for it. Thanks to Dan (who came up with the name SeeTweet), Rodolfo, Maria, Casey, Ari, Rebecca, Noah, Anoush, and Chris.]


*: There are a couple of dots out West, but I’m betting that those are from immigrants like me who were raised in the Midland region and ended up out West.

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