The Internet’s influence onlanguage: can English survive IM,Twitter, Email, and Emoticons?(IMHO, NP)Musings, cartoons, and observations to bepresented at Supper ClubTuesday, June 19th2007Cherie Dargan
Overview Look at some cartoons and examples of howlanguage is being used online (especially IM) Examine concerns of a few linguists andresearchers in the way that IM abbreviationsare moving into the f2f world, as well as theimpact of email on writing letters Explore ways the web has influenced our use oflanguage, but also how we communicate andinteract overall
Beginning assumptions Language is tied to culture and identity Groups share a common language – a symbolsystem. (Outsiders may not “get it.”) Language is dynamic: it changes over time.Some words drop out of usage or get retooled(boot – boot) and others are added. Language is a bridge between individuals,groups, cultures, and generations
Has the Internet affected your life—and your language? Have you googled a person, event or wordlately? Read a blog? Watched a video or read astory posted on CNN? Logged on to an onlinebank or investment account, or shopped atAmazon or E bay? Checked your email andforwarded a link to a great new video atYoutube? These terms are all part of our collectivelexicon, thanks to the Internet.
How has the web made it easier tocommunicate? Email part of our routine for business and home Forums for posting reviews of books, issues, andproducts Tools to create blogs without any programmingknowledge Focus on user generated content and interaction(social networking sites, Youtube) Most companies have a web presence, with space forcustomers’ comments My personal examples—faculty web and blogs
Themes--or concerns Is Text messaging taking over our lives? Who can keep up with all the new tech terms (andtechnology) when they become buzz words overnight? The good news – anyone can have a web presence.The bad news – anyone can have a web presence. With so many people using email, who writes letters? Other quick observations, using one of Mike’s all timefavorite movie stars, Clint Eastwood.
The Good Lots of information—e-books, online journals, CNN,NPR, online libraries, and don’t forget wikipedia Lots of opportunities to interact with people via emailand discussion boards Whole web sites devoted to very specific topics,hobbies, or people (something for everyone) Search engines and online databases make it easier todo research on questions ranging from trivial (who wasthat guy in the movie with Brad Pitt?) to important(health concerns, the best car according to ConsumerReports, or shopping for a hotel room)
The Bad Typos, grammatical errors, and blatant misspellings inway too many web pages Lack of consistency in format, such as a note of whencontent was last updated, or absence of the credentialsof person/organization posting content Tendency of students to think info across the net isequally credible (a blog posting, IM, or Mayo Clinic e-newsletter) Too much “junk” that is old, hard to navigate, ordifficult to verify as credible
The Ugly Hate sites The “mean girls’ ” postings on Face book,blogs, and other personal pages Sites promoting eating disorders, cutting,suicide Cyber bullies Pedophiles Scams and other criminal activity Terrorists
My Concerns Many people are obsessed with texting, and itis creeping into their everyday speech andwriting. (So should I develop a new system ofgrading comments in text?) I see lots of references to it being used in avariety of way: IM Reference, IM to vote on afavorite song or person, or to enter a contest.What’s next?
People are asking questions like “Is itokay to use text messaging….” To say I LOVE YOU for the first time? To ask someone out? To break up? (netfamilynews blog) There are also articles discussing the genderdifferences—men use messaging “to managerelationships while women view text as anotherway to foster emotional interaction.” (Pressner,USA Today)
More facts on text messaging Over 90% of wireless customers in the U. S. areequipped to send text messages The number sent has doubled every year,exploding to 7.3 billion in June 2005 along,compared with 2.9 billion in June 2004. One writer described them like junk food,calling them “fast cheap and easy….text isreplacing some cell phone calls” (Pressner,USA Today)
There’s even a Text message novel! Posted 1/24/2007 12:54 PM ET HELSINKI, Finland (AP) — A novel in whichthe entire narrative consists of mobile phone textmessages was published Wednesday in Finland,home of the worlds top handset maker NokiaCorp. The Last Messages tells the story of a fictitious IT-executive in Finland who resigns from his job andtravels throughout Europe and India, keeping intouch with his friends and relatives only throughtext messages.
Text message novel, cont. His messages, and the replies — roughly 1,000altogether — are listed in chronological order. Thetexts are filled with grammatical errors andabbreviations. "I believe that, at the end of the day, a text messagemay reveal much more about a person than youwould initially think," said Luntiala (the author) http://www.wastedblog.com/viewcontent.php?AlwaysUseFra=1&IdContent=4612
And now, it’s time for a quiz! Which of the followingterms do yourecognize? List taken from thearticle “OMG: IMSlang is InvadingEveryday English”(NPR, Neda Ulaby)
“OMG: IM Slang is Invading EverydayEnglish” (NPR, Neda Ulaby) RUOK? BBL BRB IMHO JK LOL LYLAS NP OMG OTP ROFL TTFN TTYL YW
And now the Translation… RUOK: Are you okay? BBL: be back later BRB: be right back IMHO: in my humbleopinion JK: just kidding LOL: laughing out loud LYLAS: love you like asister NP: no problem OMG: oh my God OTP: on the phone ROFL: rolling on thefloor laughing TTFN: Ta-ta for now TTYL: talk to you later YW: you’re welcome
Three of the most popular IM terms By the way, another writer, Haig, identifies thethree most popular IM terms: LOL, IMHO andBFN
OMG: IM Slang, cont. (Weekend Edition, Feb. 18, 2006) Quotes Professor David Crystal, “I see a brandnew language evolving, invented really byyoung people…” He also says that these terms “extend the rangeof the language, the expressiveness…therichness of the language.” Not everyone is in agreement with him.
Taking sides on IM… Professor Crystal compares the introduction ofIM slang into face to face communication assomething like the revolution that occurredwhen Gutenberg introduced his movable type.(In other words, NBD—no big deal) Others disagree, stating that since these termsare abbreviations for existing phrases they don’tenrich anything but simply shorten it.(wikipedia)
LOL in F2F (ROFL?) Increasingly, these IM terms are slipping into faceto face communication. For example, LOL (Lahl)and ROFL (rafful) Professor Lacetti is critical of the acronyms.“Unfortunately for these students, their bosses willnot be “lol” when they read a report that lacksproper punctuation and grammar, has numerousmisspellings, various made-up words, and sillyacronyms.” (The Lost Art of Writing, quoted in“Internet Slang,” Wikipedia)
Reactions to the NPR story from theblogosphere Blog posting by jadedlistener, Feb. 25 2006 Writer recalls a teenager explaining that teensmight say LOL to someone who told a bad joke(as in NOT funny). “Imagine that! “laugh out loud” means theopposite of “laugh out loud”—leave it to thosewacky teenagers!”
Jadedlistener’s blog, cont. Some terms like ROFL have been reduced toone “word” in roffle. “OMG! Professor Crystaleven says that he believes Shakespeare himselfwould have loved this new language.Academics say the darndest things!” He gives examples from the past: collegefriends who used to hold entire conversationsusing one word (Dude) Rap music twisting the meanings (Word – Iagree)
Interesting insight – context matters! Jadedlistener concludes, “These new lingosdon’t “enrich” anything: they just shorten it. …the point of speaking this way, as with myfriend’s “dude” conversations is to stripcommunication of language altogetherand to make it completely dependent oncontextual expressiveness.”
This leads us to a cautionary note Bidgoli warns that these abbreviations “savekeystrokes for the sender but might makecomprehension of the message more difficultfor the receiver.” (“Internet Slang,” Wikipedia) The next writer was even more blunt.
Internet slang: the dummening* ofour culture -- by Siren http://eville.net/articles/netslang.html “Internet slang. Geez. Who made this up? Its likehandicapped typing. Its like another language. Itsdreadfully annoying to people who can actually typeout entire words and phrases without the help ofsome kind of set code made up by some teenagepseudo-internet guru chewing pink bubblegum. The word "you" is just entirely too long. So how canwe shorten it? I just dont get it. How much timedoes one actually save by doing this? Assuming youtype more than six words a minute, not much.”
Siren’s take on Internet Slang,cont. “I can read "Does anyone want to chat?" much easierthan I can read "NE1 want 2 chat?"...and chances are,Ill ignore someone who chose the latter way to type asentence, being that I assume the entire "conversation"will be one big guessing game after another. No, its not that hard to figure it out, but why in hellshould you have to RE-read a simple sentence in orderto understand what it means? Is this slang thing someexclusive club for people who cant type properly? Isthat why we werent briefed on it?” * HIS spelling!
Next, what is twitter, and whyshould you care? If Siren was annoyed by text messaging, he willreally be annoyed by twitter…. A brand new service that lets people send shortmessages that focus on what he or she is doingRIGHT NOW Sample print screen
The official explanation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send"updates" (text-based posts, up to 140characters long) via SMS, instant messaging,the Twitter website, or an application such asTwitterrific. Twitter was founded in October2006 by San Francisco start-up companyObvious Corp.
Twitter map You can actually look at a map and see wherepeople are located as they post their messages. Some are fascinated with this, and others arecritical, saying that it is all just a fad. However, is something more going on?
Netspeak– a new kind of language? Professor Crystal is a noted scholar and theauthor or editor of several books on language,including The Cambridge Encyclopedia of TheEnglish Language, 1995. Uses “netspeak” to describe what he sees as a“third medium” to speech and writing. It hassome of the qualities of both. Crystal was cited in numerous articles.
Franklin Cook: 3 seminal events inthe development of language Development of speech approximately 40,000years ago Development of writing about 6,000 years ago Development of digital communication via thewww in the closing decade of the 20thcentury. Language on the internet is a new mode,according to Dr. Dieter Stein
A New Mode—linguistic hybrid Stein cites David Crystal, who wrote two booksin the past couple of years: Language and theInternet and The Language Revolution. Stein calls the new mode a linguistic hybrid,because it has qualities of “spokenness” and“writenness”
Research results of IM fit the newmode Naomi Baron collected IM from collegestudents and analyzed them. She found “theyused few abbreviations, acronyms andemoticons, the spelling was reasonably good…Overall the study suggested that conversingthrough instant messager resembled speakingmore than writing.” Side note: 70% said they were doing otheractivities while they IM’d or talking to otherpeople at the same time.
Wired words article As noted, the Internet transformed ournotions of print and email has turned usall into writers. Some examples: Blog (online journal) Post or view videos Twitter (send short messages to describe whatyou are doing RIGHT NOW. 140 characterslimit) Tag content (delicious)
“The web is not the death of language” “Traditional linguists fear the internet damages ourability to articulate properly, infusing languagewith LOLs, dorky emoticons, and the gauchesharing of personal information on blogs,” KristenPhilipkoski She cites David Crystal, who says that any newtechnology tends to bring out the prophets ofdoom. He thinks the internet is getting morepeople to write, and that is a good thing. From article dated 2/25/05
Where’s the quality control? TheInternet and content McCabe points out that “the internet is one bigvanity press,” (cited in Cook article) This provides people with an opportunity to telltheir stories; however, the gatekeepers oftraditional publishing are disappearing. Print magazines have editors and/or peerreviewers. This is not always true for onlinepublications. One thing we are all writing & reading is email
Statistics about email An October 2006 report by technology marketresearch firm The Radicati Group estimatesthat there are "1.1 billion email users and 1.4billion active email accounts worldwide." The same report suggests that some 183 billionemails were sent each day in 2006 and thatwireless email users will grow "from 14 millionin 2006, to 228 million in 2010." http://www.email-marketing-reports.com/metrics/
Quick--reflect, then click! Naomi Baron, author of book (2000) on emailand writing, states “I believe that we are making ourselves intoless sophisticated users of language because ofcomputer mediated communication in general,and perhaps, email in particular…..drives us toproduce writing and send it off withoutreflecting.” (Cited in Cook)
What do I think? Know your audience – one of the basic thingswe try to teach our students in preparation forwriting or presenting a speech Use internet slang in context (and make it easyfor the reader to figure them out!) My informal findings—my students don’t knowall of the text messaging terms Most of them use a handful of terms when theydo IM and send text messages by phone
My big concern: the temporary nature ofemail (who writes letters anymore?) Email is a great tool to keep in touch withfamily, friends and coworkers Instant – we may not build in enough time forreflection for some messages Most of the time it is very functional – good forshort, quick messages However, many of us cherish old family lettersthat help to recapture life in an earlier time.What will our children look at?
War time correspondence Know someone who is serving in Iraq orAfghanistan? Most soldiers have access toemail, and many families are able to keep intouch. Some do IM and video conferencing. However, is someone going to print out thatexchange of messages and put them into threering binders, to treasure later on? This is a big contrast with previous wars, whenmorning mail call was special.
Letters home from Viet Nam Dear America: Letters Home fromVietnam, compiled entirely fromthe avalanche of letters andpoems received by theCommission for considerationto be included on the Memorial,was published by W. W. Norton& Company. In all, 208 pieces written by 125people were chosen forinclusion
In closing Slang varies from generation to generation; each erahas its buzzwords and internet slang is not muchdifferent Language (especially English) has proven to be fairlyresilient Some concerns may be justified about how muchtime people spend with IM; however, most people usea handful of terms at best Some IM terms may cross over into common usagef2f but it won’t be the end of English Twittering is IM to the extreme and probably justanother fad (like driving around to find “hot spots”)
Want to brush up on your Internetslang? Go to Netlingo.comNetlingo.com is an onlinedictionary with thousandsof terms relating to theinternet and technology(also lists of Smileys andIM terms), and a greatresource.