Wednesday, January 23, 2008

im in ur langwidge, corruptin ur grammr

It's Like, IMing Is So Like Talking

So some linguists have been studying how similarly people approach IM conversations to the way they approach verbal ones. They did this by tracking linguistic trends that at one point were almost purely verbal, such as the quotative "like." People only used to use that in verbal speech, using more formal verbs such as "said," but now it's becoming really common in instant messenger conversations as well.

Instant messaging, a synchronous form of typed, computer-mediated communication, is becoming more conversational, blurring the divide between face-to-face speech and writing, suggests a new study.

Evidence for the change includes the growing use of forms of "to be" combined with the word "like," as in, "He was like, 'It's so interesting.'" The practice is commonly known as "Valley Girl speak," but linguists refer to it as "be + like" or "quotative like."

"What we document is the use of quotative like in spontaneous writing, where people are using it -- a lot -- as a tool for quoting the speech and thought of themselves and others," co-author Bambi Schieffelin told Discovery News.

"What this suggests is that IMers experience the activity of IMing as very similar to face-to-face talk," she added. "Indeed, we find that they go out of their way to develop styles of writing that make IM more like talk."

Another interesting point is what happens when you introduce speakers who have very specific opinions about what constitutes proper English. I know that I've had debates with my friends before over proscriptive versus descriptive linguistics, and it's interesting how many people advocate proscriptive language and still use the quotative "like," which isn't actually correct from that perspective. The descriptive perspective is given in this article, and there are some shades of meaning that are conveyed by the more general "to be+like" as opposed to "said," or "asked."

That's really just a tangent, though. The main thing is that typed communication is starting to take on the habits of spoken communication. Considering that people have been cursing the internet for corrupting "proper" English, it's something of a surprise to see the corruption of instant messenger conversations by a uniquely-verbal sloppiness.

It's like... how neat is that?

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