Using social media to measure language use

Anastasia Zhuravleva*, Kees de Bot, Nanna Hilton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Investigations of language use in multilingual regions are traditionally done through the usage of retrospective questionnaires, either distributed on paper, or digitally. The aim of the present study was to test a new method of measuring language choice and use: by using social media to contact individuals several times a day and ask them what language(s) they are using, how, and with whom. It was investigated whether this method could provide real-time data on an individual's language use. One hundred participants living in the Netherlands were given a language background questionnaire and were asked to provide information through Facebook (R). It was found that the social media data generally reflect the questionnaire data. More importantly, the social media data include more exact information on cases of codemixing and allow to compile a typology of language contact situations. It was concluded that social media inquiries could prove useful in future language use studies. Methodological issues, in particular concerning privacy and problems related to crowd sourcing of language data through social media, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-614
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number6
Early online date18-Dec-2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2016


  • Language use
  • language contact
  • social media
  • methodology
  • questionnaire

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