KARACHI: Gone are the days when you spent your evenings hooked to ICQ and Mirc, overwhelmed with the power of asl (age, sex and location) that marked the start of your chat conversation with random strangers; learning innovative terms on chat forums and then flaunting the next morning among your peers, who would avenge you later with their set of the then ‘it’ thing.
As time passed, many of you got over the obsession. With masses joining the cyber world and adopting the jargon, they realised they lost their soi-distant exclusiveness, and suddenly all the grammar courses from high school came back, striking like lightning. Then began a phase of perpetual judgement on the linguistic skills of “others”.
Ironically it is now English that is local, and cyber-English is global. While linguists consider the online deviation from standard English as a way of free expression and a matter of ease, your cyber friends might be judging your language skills through what comes “natural” to your style. Changing ‘You’ into ‘U’ might be your cup of tea, but are you sure your chat partner is not doubting your level of maturity? Shortening the words might be saving you pressing a few more keys but is your chat partner seeing it as a face-saving expression to hide your bad spellings?
“As the internet comes increasingly to be viewed from a social perspective, the role of language becomes central (…) What is immediately obvious when engaging in any of the internet’s functions is its linguistic character, “ says British linguist David Crystal.
If you’re one of those netizens around innovating with the standard language, you may need to reconsider, particularly if you’re one of dating online.
Zoe Hazelwood, psychologist at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), found non-verbal communication was also just as important in online dating as it was in traditional dating, according to a QUT statement.
“Although online traditional non-verbal cues are not present, in our research we found people do judge potential partners on things aside from what they are saying,” she said.
“People form impressions online based on things like spelling errors, use of acronyms, amount of exclamation marks and the use of grammar.
“They may not pursue a relationship with someone if they do not like their writing style, or feel they have poor spelling.”
Hazelwood’s research found that traditional daters and online daters had roughly the same relationship success rate — despite many people believing that online dating was not as likely to be successful as traditional dating.
Through a random survey conducted by The Express Tribune, Pakistanis use innovative language for a variety of reasons. Convenience of avoiding complete words and sentences, covering up lower language proficiency, creating an exclusive style statement, joining the trend and freedom of expression are some of the reasons the participants mentioned behind their use of deviations.
Common traits of Netspeak
Here’s list of few techniques a typical Netizen (person using non-standard English language online) would use.
Innovative Spelling: Lyfe, Awl, Prayerz
Word Extensions: Thingy, Sicko, Addy
Word Contraction: Bro, Lil, Jst
Language Hybridisation: Nikko-fied
Pronunciation Tracking: Gud, Luv, Dunno
Numerals: F9, Gr8, B4
Abbreviations: LOL, OMG, ROFL
(Data taken from messages posted on chatting websites)
WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM IANS
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2011.
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