Role of Language in the Internet and the effect of the Internet on Language

The Internet is one of the most remarkable things human beings have ever made. With the past few decades, internet has become so popular and it is an integral part of our daily lives. Email, instant messaging and chat are rapidly replacing the conventional forms of correspondence, and the Web has become the first port of call for both information enquiry and leisure activity. How is this affecting language? There is a widespread view that as ‘technospeak’ comes to rule, standards will be lost. This project is an attempt to explore this linguistic problem.

A qualitative and also quantitative study is conducted here to see how internet’s global scale and intensity is having an effect on language in general, and on individual languages in particular. Covering a range of Internet genres, including e-mail, chat and the Web, this is a revealing account of how the Internet is radically changing the way we use language. The thesis work will first discuss the role of language in the internet and thereafter, the effect of the internet on language with central focus on the latter.

David Crystal, in his book Language and the Internet says that language is at the heart of internet. Internet comes increasingly to be viewed from a social perspective, so the role of language becomes central. Thus internet is a medium of communication which is inevitable aided by language. Whether it is browsing, blogging, chatting or e-mails, language has a great role to play because if we do not know the language, then we cannot use the internet at all. The influence of internet over the language has to be viewed in much broader aspect.

There is of course nothing new about the fears accompanying the emergence of a new communications technology. In the fifteenth century, the arrival of printing was widely perceived by the Church as an invention of Satan, the hierarchy fearing that the dissemination of uncensored ideas would lead to a breakdown of social order and put innumerable souls at deadly risks. Around 400 years later, similar concerns about censorship and control were widespread with the arrival of telegraph. When telephone arrived, people said it would undermine the society.

And when broadcasting enabled selected voices to be heard by millions, there was an immediate debate over which norms to use as correct pronunciation, how to achieve clarity, etc. Internet is an amalgamation of television, telephone, and conventional publishing, and the term cyberspace has been coined to capture the notion of a world of information present or possible in digital form. The electronic medium presents us with a channel that facilitates and constrains our ability to communicate in ways that are fundamentally different from those found in other semiotic situations.

Many of the expectations and practices which we associate with spoken and written language does not hold valid in the way we communicate using internet. Therefore the first attempt of this research is to investigate the linguistic properties of the so –called ‘electronic revolution’, and to take a view on whether the way in which we use language on the Internet is becoming so different from our previous linguistic behaviours that it might genuinely be described as revolutionary. The wide use of internet has led to a new branch in linguistics called netlinguistics that deals with the study of internet language.

It has brought tremendous effect in the daily language of people, and mainly in the English language. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is the communicative transaction that occurs through the use of two or more networked computers. While the term traditionally referred to those communications that occur via computer mediated formats, for example; instant messaging, chat rooms, email and so on, it has also been applied to other forms of text-based interaction such as text messaging. Popular forms of CMC include email, video, audio or text chat, bulletin boards, blogs etc.

The Internet slang came into use primarily in order to ease communication. Such short-cuts save time for the writer but it may be difficult for the reader to comprehend. Slang is also a way to indicate a group membership in Internet. Internet slang does not constitute a homogeneous language variety. It differs according to the user and the type of Internet situation. Some examples of Internet slang are: letter homophones, abbreviations, acronyms etc. An abbreviation for abbreviations is “CU” for “See you”.

An acronym, on the other hand, is a subset of abbreviations and is formed from the initial components of a word. Examples of common acronyms include “LOL” for “laugh out loud” or “lots of love” and “BTW” for “by the way”. There are also combinations of both, like “CUL8R” for “see you later”. Punctuation, Capitalization and other symbols, such features are commonly used for emphasis or stress. Periods or exclamation marks may be used repeatedly for emphasis, such as “…….. ” or “!!!!!!!!!! “. Grammatical punctuation rules are also relaxed on the Internet.

“E-mail” may simply be expressed as “email”, and apostrophes can be dropped so that “John’s book” becomes “johns book”. Examples of capitalization include “STOP IT”, which can convey a stronger emotion of annoyance as opposed to “stop it”. Bold, underline and italics are also used to indicate stress. Onomatopoeic or stylized spellings have also become popularized on the Internet. One well-known example is “hahaha” to indicate “laughter”. Onomatopoeic spellings are very language specific. For instance, in Spanish, laughter will be spelt as “jajaja” instead.

Deliberate misspellings, such as “sauce” for “source”, are also used. Keyboard generated emoticons and smileys; Emoticons are generally found in web forums, instant messengers and online games. They are culture-specific and certain emoticons are only found in some languages but not in others. For example, the Japanese equivalent of emoticons, kaomoji literally meaning “face marks”, focus on the eyes instead of the mouth as in Western emoticons. They are also meant to be read right-side up, for example, ^_^ as opposed to sideways, =). More recently than face emoticons, other emoticon symbols such as