Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Destroying the English language

...one chat at a time. Courtesy of ilani ilani comes linkage to an article in the Chicago Maroon, AOL-speak is destroying languageā€™s beauty. Let's see what our writer has to say.
Language is precious, and being able to express oneself through writing, even in something as apparently trivial as an e-mail, is vital.
Trivial? Was that email you sent to your professor asking for an extension trivial?
AOL-speak strips all the beauty and nuance out of written language, converting it to a means rather than its own end, shifting the emphasis from quality of self-expression and communication to sheer speed, efficiency, and volume of dispatches. Personal communication used to mean something; people took time in the composition of correspondence and invested something of themselves in it. Now, however, cookie-cutter abbreviations have overrun the realm of language, leaving it a bleak, monosyllabic wasteland.
I'm sorry, but this is terribly confused. Rather than a means to efficiency, the use of abbreviations ARE that very self-expression the author talks about. OK, so we still need to do the studies on how much time abbreviations save you, but our hunch is not much, right?
Not everything one writes should aim to be high Shakespearean art. Yet writing should provide a source of pride. Anything a person writes, even if it is a quick e-mail, expresses something about him or her and comments on who he or she is. Language is not merely a means but an end in itself, a fundamental method of self-expression. It is something to be reveled in, played with, and enjoyed as our greatest, most enduring cultural inheritance, not cheapened, commodified, and distilled to its barest essence. Efficiency of communication is not all that really matters.
AIMspeak is play, dude! Get with it!

Alas, colleagues, I write this not to lampoon a college reporter who clearly struggles with anal retentiveness - there are plenty of people like that, and it's not my place to judge them. Rather, I write this to encourage you to check out the comments section of both the article, and also a link to the article on digg.com. It's a beauteous little dataset of language ideology-heavy comments. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

non-internet-researcher internet-research

now that my courses are moving into paper writing mode, i've noticed that a lot of the sociolinguists in my department, students and faculty alike, are doing research using interactions held through online mediums as (usually) secondary or (occasionally) primary sources of data. the the majority of it is taken from blogs and social network site forums, though i've also seen chat treated the same way. the interest isn't specifically in this kind of discourse as written discourse, or how the sequential organization or discourse markers or notable linguistic variables of internet discourse operate among speakers and communities, but does anyone wonder if these kind of issues will come up if this trend continues? i.e. how valuable would it be for the researcher interested in language practices that index bisexual identity (for example), who happens to study an online community of self-identified bisexuals, to be aware of the structures of online talk?

in theory, this could be a gorgeous enterprise to publish on.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

narrow transcriptions of CMD

as someone who's real into conversation analysis and similar kinds of micro-analyses of discourse, i've always been a little, well, discontent with the kinds of data used to carry out this type of research. a lot of it is done using logfiles, which fails to capture a whole mess of things like detailed measurements of silences, error correction done in the message composition process, and meta details of the interaction that don't show in the chat or message box (this can range from actions and gestures from avatars to temporary messages such as 'your buddy is typing'). the use of transcription methods similar to those used to transcribe spoken discourse can potentially fix some of these problems, though the conventions of those systems need to be almost completely scrapped if we want to transcribe synchronous online interactions.

i've seen two systems that attempt to do this (i'm sure there are more, and i'd love citations if anyone has them). both rely on video recordings of interactions which are later transcribed with a unique set of conventions: garcia and jacobs 1999, which captures very narrow detail about chatroom discourse but has a transcription style that is very awkward to read; and markman 2006, also of chat discourse, which is much simpler on the eyes but captures a broader level of detail than garcia and jacobs. adding to the bunch, here's my take on the whole transciption movement, a work in progress in transcribing instant message discourse:


and the video that it's based off of:


i know this is of interest to only a piece of this readership, so comment as necessary.

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