Identifying User Demographic Traits Through Virtual-World Language Use

  • Aaron LawsonEmail author
  • John Murray
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Proceedings in Complexity book series (SPCOM)


The paper presents approaches for identifying real-world demographic attributes based on language use in the virtual world. We apply features developed from the classic literature on sociolinguistics and sound symbolism to data collected from virtual-world chat and avatar naming to determine participants’ age and gender. We also examine participants’ use of avatar names across virtual worlds and how these names are employed to project a consistent identity across environments, which we call “traveling characteristics.”


Virtual worlds Linguistic features Machine learning 



The authors acknowledge the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base for sponsorship of this research under contract FA8650-10-C-7009.


  1. 1.
    Wang, W., et al.: Automatic Detection of Speaker Attributes Based on Utterance Text. Interspeech 2011, Florence, Italy (October 2011)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lawson, A., et al.: Sociolinguistic Factors and Gender Mapping Across Real and Virtual World Cultures. 2nd International Conference on Cross-Cultural Decision Making, San Francisco, CA (July 2012)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lawson, A., Taylor, N.: The Names People Play: Exploring MMOG Players’ Avatar Naming Conventions. Canadian Games Studies Association Symposium (May 2012)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lakoff, R.T.: Language and Woman’s Place. Harper & Row, New York (1975)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Tannen, D.: Gender and Discourse. Oxford University Press, New York (1994)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Tannen, D.: Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends. Ablex, Norwood (1984)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Herring, S.C., Paolillo, J.C.: Gender and genre variation in weblogs. J. Socioling.10(4):439–459 (2006)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Herring, S.: Gender Differences in Computer-Mediated Communication: Bringing Familiar Baggage to the New Frontier. American Library Association Annual Convention, Miami (1994)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gordon, M., Heath, J.: Sex, sound symbolism, and sociolinguistics. Curr. Anthropol.39(4, August/October):421–449 (1998)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jespersen, O.: Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin. Allen and Unwin, London (1922)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ohala, J., Hinton, L., Nichols, J.: Sound Symbolism. Cambridge University Press, New York (1994)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Pearce, C.: Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds. MIT Press, Cambridge (2009)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Speech Technology and Research (STAR) LabSRI InternationalMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Computer Science LaboratorySRI InternationalMenlo ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations