Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Chatation Nation

I’ve spent the day working on a linguistics paper about how online chat breaks the conventions of linguistic theory.

Not only are spelling and grammatical conventions dashed to the pavement, but turn-based dialogue, politeness conventions, and standards are virtually (heh) non-existent.

This doesn’t apply only to chat, but to any form of computer-mediated communication (CMC).

In a chat room, turns are based not on social convention but on how fast a participant can type something and hit “enter.” This leads to redundancy when someone misses an important part of the conversation or was typing too slowly to match the speed of the other participants. Can you type as fast as you talk?

Online communication is currently dominated by those outside of academic fields. Regular, everyday Joes. Further, it is dominated by adolescents, who are often the first to pick up and play with new technology. Adolescent language is punctuated by constant change, in efforts to assert individuality and identity. Because they are the dominant users of online communication, standards for chat, e-mail etc. are practically non-existent. And no, you don’t write an e-mail like it’s a letter. Sorry, I’m just not gonna read that.

So what? These hankypanky computer-using punks are going to ruin language conventions, and possibly even the language itself.

Let’s not blame it on the kids. No one owns the Internet, and thus no one can impose standards. The medium is too new to have developed standards of communication. These take time, and we just haven’t had any of it yet.

CMC is a new communication media unto itself. It’s not writing. It’s not speech. It’s so new it doesn’t even have a name.

Our languages are on a frontier. Conventional methods of communication just don’t work online, where we have the options of including links and multimedia, and butchering grammar.

Whatcha gonna do about it?

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