Prof. Mikko Laitinen talks about Networks of Americanization


On Friday 21 October, Professor Mikko Laitinen, from the University of Eastern Finland, gave a guest talk titled Networks of Americanization, funded by ou Interuniversity PhD Programm on Advanced English Studies (IDAES). As always, a pleasure to listen to his latest research endeavours! Summary: Prof. Laitinen's presentation focused on language use in social media and investigated variability of second language use of English in the Nordic region. English accounts for around 30–40 % of all social media data in the region, making it a unique and previously uncharted setting to study variability (Laitinen & Lundberg 2020). The empirical part asked if language users systematically select British English forms or resort to variants found in American English. Of interest is, therefore, the process of Americanization, viz. the gradual change of how English around the world tends to follow contemporary American English norms (Leech et al. 2009: 252–259). Gonçalves et al. observe that American English variants dominate the expanding circle settings, but point out that “in countries where English is not the mother tongue the real problem is the lack of data” (2018: 8). Prof. Laitinen amends this bad data problem by using a more detailed data set, and his empirical material consists of one year of tweets in English and their metadata from the Nordic Tweet Stream (NTS) corpus. This real-time monitor corpus currently contains material from nearly 700,000 user accounts. The empirical part focused on a set of spelling (e.g. British centre vs. American center) and lexico-grammatical variables (e.g. singular or plural agreement with collective nouns). It not only utilizes geotagging properties of Twitter data but amends them with interaction parameters that enable me to look into social settings in which people use language. Overall, his presentation suggested methodological improvements for studying second language uses of English through social media.