Monday, November 3, 2008

Scholarly Journal Abstract #1

Rami A. Al-Sa’Di and Jihad M. Hamdam. “‘Synchronous online chat’ English: Computer-mediated communication” from World Englishes. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2005.

This study was intended to look at the linguistic details of e-English by investigating samples from Yahoo Messenger and Internet Relay Chat which were both private and public (chat rooms). This study sought out to prove that this “new mode of English” (409) has left impacts on all levels, but that these impacts should not necessarily be viewed in a negative light as much of popular print media portrays them. This study comes to the conclusion that time- and space- economy are usually the prevailing motivations behind using shorter sentences, word truncation, and acronyms. According to this study, this sort of CMC and e-English is meant to be conversational in nature and is not easily distinguished between written and spoken language.

After laying out objectives and a description of the corpus, the thesis is supported by a progression of examples of figures from private and public internet conversations including statistics surrounding frequency of different types of sentences (long vs. short; simple vs. complex vs. compound, etc.) and lays out the different methods of the aforementioned shortening of words either through truncation, replacements of letters for numbers, acronyms, and the like. There is also a section focusing on different taboos and their prevalence in private versus public forums. There are several tables through the text that accompany and support these figures.

Using terms such as CMC (computer-mediated communication), RL (real-life), and FTF (face-to-face), the authors use the same methods that they are studying (namely, in this case, truncation) in an effort to avoid typing these longer terms every time they come up in the paper. The term e-English comes up quite frequently, and this term is fairly self-explanatory (the English language as used on the internet). There are also many lexical terms that require a basic understanding of English grammar, but the authors do a good job of contextualizing these ideas within the frame of their argument.

The authors’ method of research was to look closely at conversations both private and public and pick apart their different elements to form a basis of comparison between e-English and regular, scholarly or dominant English. Taking a sample of 10 Yahoo and 10 IRC chat sessions varying in length and demographic, the researchers attempted to define similarities and trends based on numerical and quantitative evidence.

I found that while this study was intriguing and important, it definitely fell short in several areas. First, the corpus was by far not large enough. There should have been 20 from each sample; better yet, 50 of each. Also, these chats could have been taken from more varying populations and demographics, although the ones used in this study (Cybersex, Britney Spears, Professors’ Chat Room, Lesbian Women’s Haven, etc.) were fairly diverse to begin with. The degree of anonymity the authors maintained was respectful, but I would have been more satisfied with a more varying degree and number of persons involved in the study. This study was also contained to e-English; the authors themselves point out that e-French or e-Arabic might have entirely different tendencies or nuances.

The major contributions that this work provides for the field of Media Studies and its relation to linguistics is important; however, based on the shortcomings stated above, much more work can be done on this topic. The study focuses on trends within CMD that otherwise might not have been brought to light.

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