Facebook Algorithm Detects Slang Before It's Cool

facebook slang linguistics algorithm patent
Facebook's latest patent can detect emerging language trends and new slang. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

New software patented by Facebook may soon be able to mine users' posts in order to identify slang terms emerging into the common vernacular.

The social network developed a method of generating a "social glossary" that aims to catch words being used that are not associated with a known meaning.

The social glossary software has been patented by Facebook but is yet to be implemented. In its patent filing, published on Tuesday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Facebook researchers describe how the technology can detect the spread of what are known as neologisms—new terms or words that have not yet been accepted into mainstream language.

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The process used by Facebook's software to detect new slang and update its social glossary. Facebook/ USPTO

According to the patent, new words can include "slang, terms of art, portmanteaus, syllabic abbreviations, abbreviations, acronyms, names, nicknames, re-purposed words or phrases, or any other type of coined word or phrase."

Before the advent of online social networks like Facebook, catching emerging slang terms used by individual demographics before they become popular would have been a significant task. It would require surveying different groups over a period of time and analyzing which new words have entered their vocabulary.

Facebook's social glossary patent describes how the technology could have been used to pick up recent neologisms such as 'rickrolled' and 'blogger'.

Few details are given regarding how Facebook might intend to use the socio-linguistic tool, though one suggestion in the patent is that it could be used to improve predictive text.