A: u gonna get put into foundation
B: naaa u just gotta prove it 2 the teachers
A: prove wat???
B: that ure able 2 do gud work and stuff
A: no aamina
A: it dont work like that
A: they dont care wat u can do
A: they just want gud results
B: listen sofia, u have 2 try ure best
B: there is no need 2 put so much stress
A: wat r u saying!?!?!?!????????
A: this is our life, we spent 10 years in schools 4 this!!!!!!!!
B: yeh but y kill ureself then???
A: ime not
A: ime just trying to study, so i can get a good grade
B: wat a piece of paper!!!!!!!!!!
A: wat u on about???
B: ure 10 years of work, and u achieved a piece of paper with some letters on it!!!!!!!!!
Text C - This is an e-mail from Student B (A friend) to Student A (Myself). The e-mail consists of a general monologue where Student B attempts to arrange a social interaction with Student A:
Wats happening bruv,
Hows it going??? what u up 2 these days man? i aint linked up wit u 4 ages, where u been @??? bruv a levels r solid. Ime tellin u theres beeeeeer wrk 2 do. n e wayz i heard u had ure theory test, howd it go?? wat car u lookin 2 get? i reckon u shud get a bmw m3, thats a sick ride man beemas can move u knw!! u cn pick me up frm yard aswell we can go college proper fast man. At least i wnt be bloody l8 n e more! n e wayz ile chat 2 u l8r on and dat. we shud link up sme tme and play sum snooker and dat, just tell me wen ure not doin n e wrk and we can go. take it eezy bruv, sfe.
frm Student B.
Text D – This is a responsive e-mail from Student A to Student B’s initial e-mail:
Ime chillin, how u been??? yeh i know its been a loooooong time since we linked up and dat. i just had beeeeeeeeeeer wrk 2 do, u know how it iz. Ive been doin extra shifts @ wrk aswell so its been a bit hectic lately. but yeh, a levels r orite just do the work innit. i passed my theory test, it wont that hard but I did a lot of revision for it. at least thats another headache out of the way with, now i just need to get a flippin car. ime not 2 sure about ure idea of a bmw m3, u need quite a bit of dow 4 dat car. ime a bit low on finances and dat so I need 2 get sumthing cheaper than that, b4 dat I need 2 book my practical so I got beeeeer time 2 look 4 a ride. anywayz, ile give u a call and will go snooker or sumfink. safe,
From Student A.
In order to achieve a clear and successful analysis of these texts, I propose to employ a method of analysis whereby a four-way comparison can be made. It is indispensable to dissect the linguistic features of these texts so that one may closely examine and scrutinize; a) standard grammar b) non-standard grammar c) written forms reiterated into spoken forms. Hence, this will allow me in the course of my delineation to highlight evidences found within the texts, in order to successfully verify my hypothesis.
Since Text A and B (the internet chat room conversations) are both a form of continuous speech applied through the medium of typing, thus resulting in a written form of language, it is not unusual to see the use of adjacency pairs; ‘wagwaan’, ‘wats happnin’, ‘hiya’, ‘u orite’, since it involves both parties to immediately respond to one another thus producing a dialogue. On the other hand, Texts C and D (the e-mails) lack the ability to receive instantaneous feedback, hence the use of phatic expressions: ‘Wats happening bruv’, ‘wagwaan’, would be convenient since it would begin to set the interactional tenor required from the reader, and convey the incepted feelings so that a specific disposition can be established from the reader. The noteworthy factor however, is the introduction of the lexical neologism: ‘wagwaan’. The coinage of this word has entered the spoken lexis of many youth. Nevertheless, according to the BBC article ‘The lexicon of teen speak’, the word ‘wagwaan’, ‘originates from Jamaican patois.’ Therefore, a foreign word that was initially spoken has crept into the written mode of English implemented through internet technology, and has also become an intrinsic part of contemporary spoken English. Furthermore, the orthographical amendment of words have become popular and apparent, as in the case of Text A, where the word ‘what’ has undergone a orthographical ‘cosmetic surgery’ and has become ‘wat’; an omission of the silent aspirate glottal consonant has taken place, perhaps for the efficiency of typing. Similarly, Student B tampers orthographically with the word ‘happening’ in his discussion with Student A, the written word that appears is ‘happnin’. Once again this orthographical change may well have occurred as a means of making typing what would usually be heard more convenient. It would certainly be erroneous however, to consider these changes as mere orthographical ones, when one has witnessed a direct imitation of spoken English.
It is imperative to acknowledge that the aforementioned changes in the English language are examples of both omission and assimilation. Omission is generally when sounds disappear from words. Aside from the aforementioned examples, the following instances in the texts can also be seen as omission: ‘tellin’, ‘doin’, ‘wen’, ‘wat’, ‘rong’, ‘chillin’ and ‘flippin’. The reason for omitting certain letters is because of the ease of articulation when one articulates the words. Similarly, assimilation takes place when the pronunciation of a phoneme is affected by the phoneme that is next to it, thus the pronunciation of the phoneme is changed, so that one may enunciate the word with less effort. The three texts share numerous examples of assimilation: ‘ure’, ‘wayz’, ‘yeh’, ‘shud’, ‘eezy’ and ‘sumthing’. The simultaneous operation of these two key factors (omission and assimilation) can be partially responsible for causing change in the English language. However, it is essential to consider the fact that these ‘changes’ are in fact accepted as standard in spoken informal English, thus validating my opinion of spoken English being imitated by written English using technology, more than any other form of English.
Another significant aspect of modified English is the implementation of abbreviations, having stemmed from the trunk of ‘Cyberslang’. Abbreviations are words that are formed by the shortening of an existing word. For example, the use of the word ‘bruv’ at the beginning of Text C, as opposed to the standard and complete word ‘brother’. These word formations have developed to become part of the internet jargon, although we are less likely to find such words in letters or in any other aspect of written English. Rather, the other likely platforms on which such words are expected to be imposed are text-messaging and spoken communication. Another very popular example found not only within the texts that I have analysed, but also in many other contexts is the use of the abbreviation ‘u’ as opposed to the standard ‘you’. The occurrence of this abbreviation has been immense; regardless of class, background or education, numerous people use this as a catalyst when typing or texting within an interactional context.
The innovative usage of English is obvious throughout these texts; an important factor contributing to the mimicking of spoken English through the internet is the omission of punctuation. For example, the first interrogative in Text C: ‘Hows it going???’ is clearly non-standard. The first word lacks the use of an apostrophe and the word ‘it’ seems to be an incredible generalisation. Furthermore, the eccentric use of three question-marks as opposed to one intensifies the semantic weight of the question, urging the need for a quick answer and connotes the magnitude of the interrogative. Similar rejuvenation of the English language can be seen taking place at the commencement of Text D: ‘Ime chillin, how u been???’ Once again orthography imitates phonology, where the omission of an apostrophe and the addition of the letter ‘e’ demonstrate the colloquial voice that Student A has utilised and conveyed in his writing. The elimination of the auxiliary verb ‘have’ in ‘how u been???’ represents a departure from standard grammatical forms, conceivably done in order to make typing more efficient, thus resulting in being read as colloquialism.
Texts C and D interlink with each other as opposed to Texts A and B which can be read in isolation from the other two texts without much difficulty. For example, if one were to read Text D only without first having read Text C, many of the statements would seem ambiguous: ‘yeh i know its been a loooooong time since we linked up and dat.’ This statement is an exophora since it is essential that it be read within the context of Student B’s first e-mail in order to understand it. Moreover, the three texts share a significant prolonging of specific syllables in various words: ‘loooooong’, ‘beeeeeer’. This is done in order to emphasise the point being made, however upon close analysis there is an onomatopoeic element behind these words, since the words connote ‘too much’ or ‘a lot’ and by the use of ‘too much’ or ‘a lot’ of letters it ironically underlines the semantic content of the words.
The texts share numerous examples of lexical neologisms which have been formed due to the inadequacy of the traditionally existing words. This process of alteration seems to be very consistent throughout the three texts: ‘nutting’, ‘nufink’, ‘orite’, ‘ime’, ‘woz’, ‘revisin’, ‘tellin’, ‘shud’, ‘wayz’, ‘4got’, ‘sumthing’, ‘sumfink’ ‘eezy’. This critical style of writing creates much confusion when it is observed through linguistic lenses, since the linguist is unable to demarcate whether this form of transmission is spoken or written, because of the fact that the writing has actually been written as if it were spoken. While commenting on Professor David Crystal’s work, British writer Clare Dudman stated, that this ‘electronic revolution has changed language in a way we have never seen before. When we communicate electronically we say we are 'talking' on the internet even though we are writing words on the screen. In fact we are doing neither.’ In my opinion, this mode of English language is and always will remain written. Traditionally, written English forms have always remained separated from spoken language and a form of amalgamation between the two cannot take place – with the exception of a well defined context such as drama. I believe that speech only occurs when the vocal organs are exercised, which is not the case when one is involved in a written internet conversation or e-mail. Nevertheless, it is plausible to suggest that this form of internet communication is named with a figurative intent.
Amongst the confusing arguments and contradictory opinions, Professor of linguistics Naomi S. Baron conducted an experiment in 2003. She collected 23 instant message conversations from college students; 9 between males, 9 between females and 5 between males and females. She studied a total of 2185 transmissions. The results showed that few abbreviations, acronyms and emoticons were used, the spelling was reasonably good and contractions were not common. In her article entitled ‘The Web Not the Death of Language’, Kristen Philipkoski draws a conclusion to the study made by Naomi S. Baron; she writes: ‘Overall, the study suggested that conversing through instant messenger resembled speaking more than writing.’ This linguistic approach to internet technology, has undoubtedly contradicted the aforementioned opinion. Nevertheless, all of the opinions stated are based on sound evidence and as previously mentioned, linguists have a difficult task in coming to a firm conclusion on such a matter. Therefore, a difference of opinion on this matter is inevitable. What is absolutely clear is that the internet is conveying a ‘speech-like’ element of the English language through the medium of writing and much of the change in the English language can be attributed to this. As Kristen Philipkoski once again wrties: ‘Traditional linguists fear the internet damages our ability to articulate properly, infusing language…’ this combination of different language forms has created an immense change in the way we understand both speech and writing.
A comparative analysis into the language of texts A and B, clearly show that the language used in text A is profuse in displaying non-standard English as opposed to text B. This may well seem unusual when we consider the fact that the students in text A are a-level students, thus encompassing a higher degree of education and a longer time of experience with the English Language, whereas, the students in text B are only yet at the inception of their gsce studies. The difference in language tone and delivery in the two texts are clearly discernable. This difference can perhaps be primarily attributed to the fact that, the topic of discussion in Text A is of less importance than that of Text B. The copious execution of slang in text A explains a lot about the content of what is being discussed; one can deduce that the topic of discussion is of no or little importance to the participants hence there is no need to have much clarity in what is being said. On the other hand, the topic of discussion in text B seems to be of high importance, therefore the participants have seemingly suspended their implementation of slang to the best of their ability and have – for clarification purposes – used a tenor of spoken English, but have also accompanied it with the standard grammatical construction required for writing, consequently it appears to be a lot closer to standard English than text A.
From the inauguration of e-mail in 1965 until today, the diachronic change in the vocabulary and lexicality of the English language is indisputable; nevertheless, this change cannot in its entirety by ascribed to the internet. The diachronic change is evident within three of the four texts, where the phatic expressions have replaced the traditional greetings: ‘hello’, ‘hey’ or ‘hi’. It is suggested that the phatic expression ‘hello’ was first used around the time of the invention of the telephone in 1876, however this was spoken. It was first used in a written text in 1872. Thus, it was recorded in dictionaries by 1883. One can deduce therefore, that the influence of technology is of great significance, in spreading various forms of language. Writing is in fact a crucial aspect of the education process and many coinages and neologisms can be vastly influenced and implemented by writing. This highly important factor confirms to the diachronic change brought about by the internet, by means of e-mail and instant messaging. Furthermore, the World Wide Web is a place where the dominant form of communication and transmission of information is writing.
In order to make any linguistic features of spoken English applicable to of E-mail, it is indispensable firstly to analyse some of the linguistic attributes to E-mail and compare them with those components that identify spoken English. According to the contemporary professor of Linguistic studies Naomi S. Baron: ‘email seems to be janus-faced – at once resembling and not resembling face-to-face speech’. This is a powerful metaphor used to describe and identify e-mail, particularly when one considers the fact that the Proper noun ‘janus’ derives from Roman mythology, and is deemed to be ‘the Roman god of doorways and passages; is depicted with two faces on opposite sides of his head’. In fact, he is also in some passages known as Janus Quadrifrons (the four-faced). This brief etymological study shows us the multi-faceted nature that contemporary linguists allude to when referring to the E-mail. E-mail’s are thus considered by linguists to have the following different facets: 1) Language style 2) Identity of audience 3) Recipient responses and 4) Durability of messages.
Many of the words used by the students in the three texts can be seen to contribute to the increasingly large dictionary of ‘slang’ (non-standard or vulgar language). The operation of lexicography requires linguists to analyse, label and define certain words/terms which may have been coined, this also includes neologisms. Any analysis into the lexical characteristics of new words must include an in-depth study of the semantics of each word. Many of the words employed in these texts have diachronically broadened or generalised in semantic terms, thus connoting much more than originally intended. For instance, in Text A the word ‘chilling’ is used to imply relaxing, or entertaining oneself, however, the conventional definition is ‘the process of becoming cooler; a falling temperature’. It is clear how this broadening is a deviation from the traditional and conventional implication, and how this innovative use has adapted itself to the vocabulary and phraseology of numerous people. This concept of transforming in the English language is known as semantic change. Its foundations are firmly embedded within the bounds of spoken English, hence its propagation over the internet.
Another word which has been semantically revolutionised is ‘sick’. Most people are familiar with the fact that the word ‘sick’ is associated with illness, vomiting, unpleasantness etc; nonetheless, it has encompassed a recently unconventional definition. It is claimed that the word ‘sick’ is ‘used in the same manner as "cool", "wicked", "fun", or "awesome" by some British and American youths.’ It has also been used in the same manner in Text C by Student B where he states: ‘thats a sick ride man…’ As observed from this phrase, the word ‘sick’ has been used as a modifier, in order to describe the ‘ride’ (which is a noun within this context since it is referring to a car). This element of semantic language change is known as amelioration, since this modifier is a complement to the car. In order to broaden our understanding of the implications carried within the bounds of such semantic change, it would be perhaps necessary in this regard to quote G.H.R. Parkinson’s paraphrase of Gilbert Ryle: ‘Language is a set of moderately permanent possibilities of carrying out particular momentary communicative acts.’ A profound statement indeed and one may identify the relevance of this statement when the word ‘momentary’ is considered. The transitory nature of the transmission taking place within the four texts is thus only relevant to those participating in the conversations. With this factor kept in mind, semantic change can become the process of teaching language. It may well be the hidden way to teach someone how a lexeme is used. As Parkinson suggests, an expression that the participant is familiar with is given to them and can be substituted for another without unduly altering the sense. For instance in text B, participant B states: ‘naaa’ the orthographical appearance of the word has changed, however the connotation of the word remains the same. With this being projected on numerous occasions, it is clear how the internet could be used to teach non-standard English, without anyone aside from the linguist perceiving it.
Due to the number of coinages and neologisms being apparent throughout the three texts at scrutiny, one is compelled to analyse the morphology of the coined words and recognise their derivational aspects. A palpable exemplar can be noticed in Text A, where Student B uses the word: ‘anyways’. If the word is plural, one can perceive that it consists of three morphemes; ‘any’-‘way’-‘s’. The first two morphemes are free morphemes; hence, they can stand alone as words. However the last morpheme is a bound morpheme, thus, it cannot stand alone as a word and must be attached to other morphemes. One can therefore recognise how derivational affixes are used to create new words. Nevertheless, this specific type of usage of inflections is considered non-standard, since it does not contain a semantic purpose which confirms to the current rules of inflectional affixes. In fact, it has been suggested that the word ‘anyways’ belongs to the unique dialect of English spoken in New Orleans, known as ‘Yat’. The internet has thus provided a platform for propagating such lexical neologisms.
The following table shows my results of analysing features of spoken English that were present within the texts at scrutiny:
As observed from the table above, the examples of implementation of spoken English forms by means of written internet dialogue and monologue are profuse. One can deduce from my results that phatic and deictic expressions have become crucial in opening the doorways for spoken English to enter and fuse with written English. Moreover, the high records of phonological frequency of omission, assimilation and elision show that the main process of fusion also consists of change since these are intrinsically attributed to language change. One may also discern that, the internet chat-room conversations possess the ability to increase the number of utterances mimicked over the e-mail forms. This is due to the fact that, the conversation is a dialogue of continuous speech; hence the participants do not have enough time to think before writing. On the other hand, the e-mail is a monologue, thus there is no time constraint and the participants would not be waiting for a quick response, therefore the process of carefully planning and strategically executing sentences is innate.
To conclude, the internet in general has embraced itself with many different modes of the English language. The most dominant of these modes is ostensibly the spoken mode. Areas of spontaneous transmission, in particular chat-rooms (and e-mails), must be accredited with having sheltered the most prolific and significant types of spoken discourse, that have then inevitably been mimicked and changed. This process then produces the spoken discourses, contemporaneous and similar in style to those presented in this research. The linguist is then enthralled with the enthusing task of exhausting all efforts in reaching a conclusion for those conflicts that arise within this area of study.
Word Count: 3000
- American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Washington D.C.
- Shirley Russell, Grammar, Structure, & Style (Oxford)
- Naomi S. Baron, Why Email Looks Like Speech: Proofreading, Pedagogy and Public Face (American University, Washington, D.C)
- R.L. Trask, Dictionary of English grammar (Penguin reference)
- The Theory of Meaning, OUP, 1968
- Naomi S. Baron, Language of the internet
- Naomi S. Baron, The future of written culture, Envisioning Language in the New Millennium
- David Crystal, Language Death, (Cambridge University Press 2000)
- David Crystal, Language and the Internet, Second Edition, (Cambridge University Press 2006)
- David Crystal, English as a Global Language, Second Edition, (Cambridge University Press 2003)
American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Washington D.C.
Shirley Russell. ‘Grammar, Structure, & Style’ (Oxford)
‘Why Email Looks Like Speech: Proofreading, Pedagogy and Public Face’ By Naomi S. Baron (American University, Washington, D.C)
‘Why Email Looks Like Speech: Proofreading, Pedagogy and Public Face’ By Naomi S. Baron (American University, Washington, D.C) Page 4.
The Theory of Meaning, OUP, 1968