Social Media And Texting As A Sub-Cultural Languange

Social Media And Texting As A Sub-Cultural Languange


TOC o “1-3” h z u HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141786” Introduction PAGEREF _Toc380141786 h 1

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141787” Theoretical framework PAGEREF _Toc380141787 h 3

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141788” Literature review PAGEREF _Toc380141788 h 4

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141789” Social Media and Texting: Conceptualizing the Distortion of Traditional Rules of Writing and Differences in Spelling PAGEREF _Toc380141789 h 6

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141790” Deviation from Conventional Rules PAGEREF _Toc380141790 h 6

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141791” The Dynamism of the Social Media and Texting Language PAGEREF _Toc380141791 h 9

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141792” Prevalence in a Sub-section of the Society: Is Social Media and Texting a Youth Culture? PAGEREF _Toc380141792 h 15

HYPERLINK l “_Toc380141793” So what makes social media and texting a distinctive subculture? PAGEREF _Toc380141793 h 19


Communication has been one of the most fundamental pillars of human interaction. Indeed, it is the one thing that joins together animals within specific groups, and separates them from other animals. It goes without saying that communication and its varied aspects and features are always changing depending on the environment and the demands with which such environment comes. However, what separates human communication from the communication in animals of other species is its specificity, completeness, orderliness and dynamism that allows for elasticity and flexibility in different times, environments, age groups and even classes of people. Indeed, human communication has undergone a paradigm shift since the entry of technological advancements that aid communication (Yates 30). This is especially with regard to the entry of mobile telephony and the internet or social networks that have allowed for more convenience and speed in communication. Needless to say, almost every form of communication today is pegged on these two technological inventions.

This may, essentially, be the reason why there has been increased attention on the effects of this mode of communication on the established languages. This is especially considering that every mode of communication comes with its own principles, structures, modes and words, which is the case for modes of communication that involve mobile telephony and internet (collectively referred to as computer mediated communication or CMC) (Yates 30). On the same note, computer mediated communication entails a considerably high level of sophistication as far as technology is concerned, in which case it tends to limit certain categories of people from using it (Squires 459). Of course, every person understands that these modes of communication come with a high level of efficiency, speed and convenience of communication, which would essentially underline their high intake, not only in the business world, but also within the social structures (Palfreyman and Muhamed 13). Nevertheless, the technological requirements tend to place restrictions or limitations on the usage of this technology on particular classes of people or even different age groups. This would essentially mean that there are variations in the usage of technology among different age groups and classes (Squires 459). On the same note, there have been concerns as to the fact that the different classes of people or age groups come with different communications styles and patterns. Indeed, individuals in the older age groups are bound to be stuck in the conventional techniques of communication and would essentially be more formal in their communication patterns. While they still use new technological innovations to enhance their communication, they are still essentially fixated on using the conventional grammatical rules and styles so as to pass their messages.

In essence, this paper is built on two notions. First, it is built on the notion that texting and social media communications come with their own linguistic rules that allow it to operate as a subcultural language. Indeed, texting and social media messaging comes with dynamic rules that one would need to know so as to have a clear understanding of the language used in these forums or modes of communication. In this case, the paper aims at examining how much these modes of communication meet the parameters or the set characteristics of a culture or subculture. Its features and dynamism would be examined and placed within the context of the characteristics of a subculture or culture.

Theoretical frameworkWhile this paper is not limited to the social mechanisms pertaining to linguistic change, it examines this aspect and notes the differences that early scholars have outlined between two different mechanisms for studying linguistic change (Squires 459). However, it mainly concentrates on the second approach that is mainly associated with contemporary quantitative sociolinguistics. The key objective would be the specification of the process by which languages and their varied modes are passed from one state to another with regard to social processes that are involved, as well as the effect that such processes have on linguistic structures pertaining to a given change (Squires 459).

This paper borrows heavily from early scholars who attempted to apply the “wave model” to modern data. Nevertheless, it is well established that the variability pertaining to a regular and structured type is a feature of the usage of normal language and comes as a fundamental aspect to the comprehension of mechanisms pertaining to linguistic change (Squires 459). Scholars have noted that change, at the phonological level, affects contextually defined subsets pertaining to phonological classes in a considerably regular way and goes on to spread in the community in waves in a way that is controlled or regulated by other extra-linguistic factors like sex, age, social status, as well as the speaker’s geographical location (Shortis 56). On the same note, scholars have characterized the linguistic change as waves that affect one class of words at a time. It is definitely predictable that the items that lag behind in the change or shift come as stylistic variants in the speech attributed to older informants (Ferrara et al 19). These scholars have argued that the phonological rules should be written in a manner that reveals the pattern.

In instances where the choices of languages (that are open to an individual) are placed within the broader context, they would essentially be seen as reflecting “later’ and earlier” overlapping states pertaining to a dynamic or changing phonological system (Ferrara et al 19). The ability of a variable rule formalist to undertake and deal with linguistic constraints pertaining to the implementation of such a rule would essentially be characterizing or typifying successive change “waves” (Crystal 67). In essence, it would be argued that a person’s language behavior would have a relationship with the historical modifications of rules that reflect the speaker’s or writer’s competence whose linguistic choices range would be congruent with the change waves that regularly proceed through space and time (Shortis 56). This essentially would underline the general notion that is expressed in this paper. As much as individuals using texting and social media channels of communications would essentially be in different age groups and classes, the “wave model” shows that their communication can be put in a broader context that would show the different age-groups of the writers or even speakers.

Literature reviewNumerous social scientists have examined the subject of computer mediated communication and done comprehensive research on the manner in which it impacts on the contemporary writing and speech discourse (Blommaert 45). Scholars have noted that all networked writing such as texting and social media communication is undertaken on digital technologies that allow for public or private, near-synchronous or asynchronous exchange between groups and people on varied platforms and applications (Crystal 67). As much as these technologies allow for varied categories of written communication including institutionally framed, subject oriented and carefully drafted texts, prototypical networked writing revolves around four fundamental conditions. First, this category of writing is vernacular with regard to the fact that it is some form of non-institutional writing that goes beyond professional and educational control (Thurlow 214). Secondly, prototypical networked writing is relationship and interpersonal focused and not subject-oriented. Third, such writing is, more often than not, spontaneous and unplanned in nature. Lastly, prototypical networked writing takes up an interaction and dialogical-oriented nature, coming with expectations pertaining to persistent exchange.

However, it is worth noting that this prototype did not entirely come with computer mediated communication (Thurlow 214). Indeed, researchers have noted that these properties outlined the framework for a prototype for a new form of writing, which initially materialized at the period before web applications such as newsgroups, chat channels, and personal emails before they were carried on to forums, instant messaging and texting (Thurlow 214). The written language that is influenced by these properties captured the imagination and interest of researchers from an early age, with virtually every discussion on the modification of language through and in digital media examining networked writing (Blommaert 45).

Nevertheless, computer mediated communication has for some time gone beyond these conditions with the relevant literature incorporating numerous discrepancies with regard to contemporary and early accounts, empirical evidence and visionary scenarios (Blommaert 45). In 1991, a German linguist called Sigurd Wichter stated that as much as the history of digital technology was yet to be written, there was a high probability that the new developments would get to the consequences pertaining to the printing press at the start of the tele-communications technologies or modern era at the beginning of the 20th century (Crystal 67). Such predictions usually come up in public discourse, with the main motivation for the regular dystopian versions being the concerns that the language used in internet is corrupting the manner in which individuals craft conventional writing or even speak one-on-one (Baron 176). However, they scholars noted that such concerns were considerably uncommon in literature on internet linguistic as the phenomenon is significantly recent that very little would have happened. Public discourse, in some instances, raises the effects that digital media has on languages. However, from the viewpoint of a research, internet and computer mediated communication have been said to have little impact on interpersonal communication.

Social Media and Texting: Conceptualizing the Distortion of Traditional Rules of Writing and Differences in SpellingDeviation from Conventional RulesNumerous studies have generally agreed that written language’s grapheme structure gains importance as a linguistic variation level in Computer Mediated Communications. Indeed, scholars have argued that networked writing differs with the conventional sociolinguistic assumptions pertaining to the notion that spelling is the most invariant linguistic structure level. On the same note, some observations pertaining to this effect have concentrated on the deviation from or conformity to orthographic norms. Scholars note that Computer Mediated Communication and mobile texting heightens insecurities pertaining to spelling, as well as tolerance to typos, which may be reinterpreted as results of speedy text production and not indications of deficiency of competence. Writers, to represent vernacular and written forms, shorten the message or simulate prosody must handle spelling in a manner that goes further that normative orthography. The necessity of undertaking contextualization work with written materiality of language, coupled with the deficiency of institutional control, drives networked writers to examine gaps between non-standard and standard representations, as well as take advantage of the polyvalence pertaining to graphemephoneme correspondence inherent in a large number of orthographic systems in subversive, evocative and playful ways. This results in a uniquely visual variability that borrows from the variation in normative orthography instead of representation of spoken variation.

Underlining the immense modification of the traditional rules of language and writing is the April 2010 case where the informal online communication of individuals that are internet savvy collided with the austere and conventional language that is used in the court room. At this time, Christopher Poole, who is the founder of the radical image message board called 4Chan, was called to testify in the court room in a case where a man had been accused of hacking the email account of Sarah Palin. During the case, Mr. Poole was asked to provide a definition for a catalogue of internet slang that was evidently lost on lawyers but was extremely familiar to a large number of individuals online. Scholars did not see this as surprising at all rather they noted that the internet has quickly become an incredible medium for languages. Indeed, they noted that as much as change in language comes slowly, the internet in general and social media in particular has accelerated the process by which individuals notice the changes. Indeed, individuals in social media are always using word play so as to form groups, as well as impress their friends. They compare this activity with local skate parks where one can see kids show their expertise through making skateboards to undertake wonderful things, with the only difference being that when using social media or texting, individuals show their brilliance through the manipulation of the internet language.

On the same note, English speakers may examine the varied cult websites that have been devoted to cult dialects (Danet and Herring 34). This essentially involves a deliberate distortion of the spelling rules of English language, as well as rules pertaining to grammar. In this case, terms such as “LOLcat” are a common feature, which involves a deliberately grammatically incorrect and phonetic caption accompanying a picture of a picture, alongside a “Leetspeak” where some letters would be replaced with numbers emanating from a programming code. Researchers have noted that there exists more than a dozen of such games created by geeks who are into playing language games (Danet and Herring 37). It is worth noting, however, that these games are clever little developments that are limited to a particular group of people. On the same note, the popularity of these games emanates from the fact that they are fashionable at this time, which, essentially, creates doubts as to the possibility that they will be in existence 50 years from now.

One modification of language that has undoubtedly been overhyped is what is popularly known as text-speak, which incorporates a combination of usually vowel-free acronyms and abbreviations. As much as researchers have opined that only 10% of words in a typical or average texts are not written in full, it goes without saying that a large percentage of texts incorporate or are essentially text-speaks. It is not difficult to have messages that have texts such as TMI, OMG or ITMA, which are acronyms that stand for “Too Much Information”, “Oh My God”, and “It’s That Man Again” respectively (Smyk-Bhattacharjee 72). While people may get extremely angry at the use of these words and wonder whether they belong to the established paradigms of the English language, it is worth noting that such distortions of the English language have always been there, especially considering that acronyms such as TTFN (ta ta for now) was used in the 1940s’ radio series called “It’s That Man Again”. This, however, does not undermine the significant impact that technological advancement has had on language especially with regard to social media and texting in the last one decade.

The Dynamism of the Social Media and Texting LanguageIn addition, social media communication and texting has introduced an entirely new collection of words. For example, it is not difficult to come across the verb, “to Google”, which essentially underlines looking something up in search engines, or even the noun “app”, which is used in describing programs used in Smartphones. These terms have not only been recently invented but have also been popularized in the digital age, thanks to the use of social media networking and texting (Tagliamonte and Denis 16). On the same note, words have been given an entirely new meaning with the entry of these modes of communication, with scholars noting that it is more common to come across the hijacking of phrases and words that are already use. For example, the phrases “social networking” came up in the 70’s thanks to OED. It is defined as the establishment or utilization of social connections or networks. However, this no longer is the case with the recent times resulting in the overhauling of the meaning of the word to link it to internet-based activities. Other terms such as “wireless” in the past meant a radio, something that has completely changed in the recent times with scholars noting that rarely do people talk of radios as wireless (despite the fact that they are, in fact, wireless) unless, of course, an individual is making an attempt at being ironic or he belongs to a certain generation. Indeed, such words have been given an entirely new significance (Smyk-Bhattacharjee 74).

As much as the use of social media and texting is slightly less in-your-face, it has also changed the words that individuals use in speaking to each other rather than just the way that individuals choose to communicate (Gorham 320). The obsession that individuals have with the internet and text messaging influences the relatively simple way of taking out loud in real life (or rather IRL as is commonly known). Varied neologisms, acronyms, as well as abbreviations have been incorporated into everyday speech, to such an extent that if someone said something like “OMG, why did he do that? Obvi, I will have to unfriend him”, a large number of people would undoubtedly know what the individual means although they would feel bad at how annoying the individual would be. Space-saving emoticons and truncated turns of phrase are considered relatively mainstream as people have taken to online communication, as well as the use of text messaging. It is not rare to hear someone say something like “I re-tweeted James the GIF link. SMH.” SMH would, of course, have to be verbalized by saying the entire phrase “shaking my head”. However, this sentence comes as an indicator of the different ways in which the texting and the internet in general or social media in particular has been influencing language. On the same note, the use of the term “re-tweet” indicates the manner in which individuals have been adapting the English language around a collection of new technological concepts (Ito and Sali 97). Scholars have noted that social networking site, twitter, came up with the idea of “re-tweeting” as an action, but individuals have informally inculcated it as a verb in their vocabularies (Gorham 327). This is something that occurs from time to time in instances where new features come up online. For example, Facebook came up with ideas such as friending, and liking, while other social networking sites introduced things like “icing”, “trolling”, “flapping” and “rickrolling”, all of which may be lost on the mainstream English language as they mean an entirely different thing from the mainstream meaning.

Underlining the immense change that has been visited upon the English language by the social media is a blog post by Oxford Dictionaries where it highlighted the manner in which Facebook has come up with new phases and words and incorporated them in the lexicon while giving the familiar words a slightly different nuance. In this case, the words that an individual would choose to use in his or her conversation would undoubtedly give the impression that the individual is living a logged-in life. As an example, it is not difficult to come across words such as “wall”, “status”, “profile”, “tag”, or even “poke” (May 2). These bear an entirely new meaning from what they used to mean in the English language. It would not have been surprising for an individual to be seen as talking gibbering in the 70’s and the early 90’s if he or she said something like “Why did you post that picture on my wall” or “why did you like my status?” (May 3). These statements would have meant an entirely different thing from what they mean today. Linguist Ben Zimmerman also calls for attention to the semantic shift that has been occurring to the acronym LOL. He noted that the acronym’s original humorous connotation has been eventually toned down and can be considered as having disappeared entirely. Indeed, other scholars have noted that LOL is currently used as a way of showing that a message is supposed to be funny or as an indicator if irony. It may also come as a way of acknowledging that an individual has gotten the message, which would come off as a written version of acknowledging with a nod of one’s head and a smile. This not underlines the changes that have been visited upon the English language by the entry of text messaging and social media communications, but also the divorcing of the internet-speak from the original meaning with words that were used in one way in the initial years of internet and social media entry taking on an entirely new definition.

However, as much as text speak and the internet have pervaded the daily conversations, some scholars have noted that individuals tend to overstate the influence that technological advancements such as Facebook and SMS have on the English language (Herring 12). Indeed, scholars feel that it is still too early for any person to insinuate that the internet has any influence on the English language especially considering that it has been around for around 2 decades. They insinuate that significant or permanent modification of language would take a little longer to operate. In addition, they underline the difficulty (or rather the folly) of trying to make predictions of the impact that such modes of communication on the English language quoting other technological advancements such as broadcasting in the 1920’s, which ushered in all types of new styles like news-reading and sports commentary. They note that such things would not undertake a serious rearrangement of a language, rather they would simply inculcate new styles, as well as extend the expressive richness of the language. This is the same case that the scholars see as happening to the English language after the entry of social media and text-speak. It would simply provide new techniques of supplementing the English language rather than supplant or seriously disrupt it (Herring 13). While these modes of communication may have a minimalist impact on the manner in which individuals speak, the same may not be said in the case of written word. This is especially considering that the internet and SMS are predominantly a graphic medium, in which case the changes would occur in the written word rather than in speech. Indeed, there have come in some incredible novel formalities in orthography including the use of emoticons and punctuation minimalism (Herring 14). These impacts have, however, been minimalist as far as speech is concerned as a large number of people speak in more or less the same way as they used to do prior to the arrival of the internet.

Nevertheless, scholars have noted that despite the changes that could be attributed to the entry of internet and text messaging, the location of modification of language in digital media is not really in the influence that new media language has on other domains of spoken or written usage, rather it is in the processes of change and innovation in the digital written usage (Tagliamonte and Denis 18). On the same note, what may be considered as new in the new media language would not just be the varied innovative structures and constructions, rather they are the new strategies and resources pertaining to the production of written language and making of meaning. In addition, the influence that internet has had is not fundamentally the acceleration of the processes pertaining to modification of language that are autonomous to or prior to it, rather it is the development of digital writing as a creative and new communication domain that is at stake. This has resulted in the argument that networked writing questions the sufficiency of spoken language bias and feature-based approach that have essentially been the dominant conceptions of change of language in sociolinguistics. This underlines the necessity of coming up with an inclusive and alternative conceptualization that does not look into linguistic change but examines the sociolinguistic change and incorporates the processes of language-ideological and repertoire change without separating language from its mediation and materiality. In this regard, the modification of language in digital media essentially elaborates vernacular writing. Scholars have noted that people are engaging more in writing as digital media increases the opportunities for using writing to community related purposes and social interaction that used to be handled in one-on-one speeches or even by phone. In this case, networked writing differs from the conventional writing that was primarily a solitary and non-involved activity that did not have a compresent audience. Computer mediated communication created a need for enhancing the suitability of written language for social interaction with vernacular elaboration turning writing into a sociability medium.

On the same note, social media comes with publicness of immense measure. It goes without saying that a large amount of written language that is publicly available is not subjected to editorial control. Of course, mass media content must pass through such control. However, it not only co-exists but also competes for attention with genres that are not under any institutional control. The writing that is exercised in the social media and texting allows for a seamless transfer of counter-cultural usage of words and phrases into the mainstream public spaces of discourse. Indeed, varied sociolinguistic manifestations of the blending of the public and the private characterize the social media and texting (Ito and Sali 97). The variations in scale allow writing exercised in social media to have unprecedented visibility and space, with the publicisation and digitization allowing for the modification of the conventional rules of English language. Social media writing capitalizes on the variability of spelling and is contingent on what the keyboard production can afford. This may be seen in the hyper-excessive usage of punctuation that is prevalent in teenage homepages.

The development of networked writing has allowed for the extension and reconfiguration of the written language repertoires both at the societal and individual level. Users of texting and social media develop unique styles that they use in writing online, as well as metapragmatic awareness pertaining to the choice of the written style. It is unclear whether the style awareness and variation will result in new rules especially considering that users of social media and texting are still engaging in the settling of conventions that would ostensibly become the new rules that may be broken or followed (Kataoka 130). Repertoire extension revolves around the reconfiguration of the norms of written language and the emergence of new indexical regimes. Scholars note that practices pertaining to social media and texting fragment normative authority’s locus. In this case, the norms and rules of written language are pluralized to such an extent that varied writing styles would be seen as appropriate in varied genres and environments, as well as to varied user groups.

Underlining the subcultural nature of social media and texting is the fact that visiting a Twitter profile of a individual or even a gamer forum would show the user the varied ways in which he can claim symbolic capital using language. These ways are localized especially with regard to the fact that they are restricted to certain online networks and communities. For example, a particular chat channel may encourage multilingual play while another prohibits the use of foreign language (Kataoka 134). Some forums stigmatize the deficiency of noun capitalization in German while such mistakes are common place in others. In these domains of unregimented writing, localized negotiation determines the stylistic appropriateness, for instance, pertaining to punctuation and spelling, or even how regional dialects are represented. In this case, vernacular writing elaboration would encompass the pluralisation of the manners in which written language would index status or identity with regard to networked audience. Vernacular writing, in this process, would have its meaning extending beyond the conventional indexical values pertaining to class or region. This would explain why certain rules and norms pertaining to language used in social media and texting would only be understood or used by a certain caliber of individuals, especially within certain age groups.

Prevalence in a Sub-section of the Society: Is Social Media and Texting a Youth Culture?Text messaging, alongside taking photos, comes as the most common or popular non-voice application used by a large number of people on their mobile phones. This would not come as a surprise considering that more than 94% of Americans have a mobile phone. As much as the cell phone was primarily devised to allow for voice calls, it became clear that the devices had more potential, which resulted in the emergence of texting as a trend. The entry of internet and its incorporation in mobile devices allowed for the use of social media and texting in these devices, with these modes of communication being extremely popular unlike calling. Indeed, a large number of people would find the use of these modes of communication as more efficient and cheaper than calling, in which case they will opt for them at any time. Research shows that about 73% of adult cell owners make use of the text messaging function in their phones on an occasional basis. These studies show that users of text messaging and social media receive and send 41.5 messages on average every day, with 10 texts per day being the number that the median user receives or sends. This undoubtedly underlines an increase in text messaging from the figures shown in 2009 where the average number of texts received or sent per day was 34.5, with the median being 8.5.

Scholars have noted that with about 67% of subscribers engaging in texting, there is a high probability that there will be potential “texters” in almost every age demographic. As a Nielsen study done in 2009-2010 showed, individuals between the age of 18 and 24 were texting at a rate of about three texts per hour. This study also showed that as they move to the 25-35 age bracket, the individuals are still texting at a rate of about 1000 texts per month. As much as there is bound to be an increase in the number of individuals that are engaging in the practice in all age groups, researchers note that the rate declines as one goes from teens to seniors. This may be shown by the results of a research study which indicated that individuals in the 55-64 age bracket were still engaging in texting but at the rate 80 times per month. Indeed, the rate declined to about 32 times per month for individuals above 65 yea