This paper reports on a study examining key words and key semantic domains in the data collected from the online classified ads on the Telegraph.co.uk dating website KindredSpirits. We use the Wmatrix web-based corpus processing software tool for linguistic analysis, in order to compare the language of men looking for women, men looking for men, women looking for women, and women looking for men. The age group under investigation is the over-50s.
Linguistic research into the language of online dating ads is still scarce. The vocabulary and semantics of the online dating ads have not yet been investigated, although a number of studies in psychology and evolutionary anthropology have identified important personal trait categories, such as age, physical attractiveness, resources (current or future earning potential), and commitment to the relationship (Bereczkei & Csanaky 1996; Bereczkei et al. 1997; Greenlees & McGrew 1994; Wiederman 1993), as well as entertainment and social skills (Miller 1998). Robin Dunbar was involved in a series of evolutionary psychology investigations of different categories of words in Lonely Hearts advertisements (Waynforth & Dunbar 1995; Pawłowski & Dunbar 1999a; Pawłowski & Dunbar 1999b; Pawłowski & Dunbar 2001) that found that men and women attached different levels of importance to the following five categories of traits: attractiveness, resources, commitment, social skills and sexiness.
This paper describes the results arrived at using our corpus-based methodology and compares them with those in Pawłowski and Dunbar's (2001) study. In our data, all five of Pawłowski and Dunbar’s categories appear as statistically significant key semantic domains, and we find other statistically significant categories. Being happy, energetic and enjoying life appear at the top of our list. Similarly to Pawłowski and Dunbar’s (2001) study, sexiness is not statistically significant in either of the heterosexual groups, although the sexual relationship category is statistically significant for homosexual men. However, even in this subgroup, general relationships based on friendship appear to be more important than sexual relationship.