Emma Benfield


“The internet is an electronic, global, and interactive medium, and each of these properties has consequences for the kind of language found there.” (p.26 Crystal)

Is the existence of a homogenous “netspeak” a myth? If we compare the language used in different chat rooms, we will be able to explore this question and argue as to whether it deserves its own terminology, or whether it belongs to written or spoken speech.

Traditionally we have different ways of communicating different subjects and for the suitable situation or person. In all cases we are restricted by whatever medium we try and use, and linguistic capacity of that medium. An electronic medium allows a lot of linguistic activity however the medium found in chat rooms is a lot closer to the language found in speech rather than that found in written language.

Due to its speedy evolution people are very passionate about the internet and they have great expectations about what it should be capable of doing. I would argue that “Netspeak” is written speech when it occurs in Chat rooms. Naturally when language is used in websites and some blogs it may look more like written language, because it will have been revised and less spontaneous. It is perhaps ironic that I am using a blog to write about Netspeak when I am using many elements unique to netspeak in this assignment itself.

The reason “netspeak” differs from other styles are the styles within it, if it is the language people are speaking, it begs the question: which people? Every one has their own particular way of speaking and this would relate to how they would write things down in a chat room. Whilst some may not mind about spelling mistakes some may correct themselves as they are typing or quickly check it before they post their replies, as the receiver does not see the messages immediately there is still an element of a delay whilst the people are writing because even the fastest typer could not type as quickly as someone would talk.

The phenomena I would also like to look at on the web is politeness routines because these are things that we learn subconsciously and use in different cultures when we are talking to people. It can often lead to misunderstandings between people of different cultures when they are speaking, because they have different routines or subconscious etiquette. Do these misunderstandings exist on the web or not, because when we are on the web we belong to a larger “online culture” rather than a racially determined one…

There are some differences between, www.deutscheinlondon.com and www.toytowngermany.com. Deutsche in London is limited to mainly London only, where the majority of England’s German community live. Toy town Germany is for the whole of Germany and you can narrow your searches in the forum by the States and then by Cities as well. For the purposes of this essay I have only looked at the Forums for North Germany because that is where I spent the majority of my own Year Abroad.

On the Deutsche in London forum I followed a positive discussion as to what people liked best about England and a more negative discussion about some one being homesick. I noticed that whilst people had not directly referred to previous conversations or previous topics because they all had one thing in common (being German living in London) they made ironic or sarcastic jokes which had you read it and not had this similar cultural background you may not have understood. It is clearly different to the written language here because in written language it would have been explained and defined. It has taken on an element of the spoken language. There is often a use of Capital letters to exaggerate some ones frustration. Finally whilst we could assume that most people using this Forum will speak English as they live in London they write mainly in German but when they use English they put it in “quotation marks” whether they are quoting some one or not… they are merely repeating a common phrase or a name for something which does not exist in German. Posts were posed often within a maximum of ten minutes of each other, meaning it is a pretty immediate conversational style with some restrictions. This is especially relevant for the more negative posts of people feeling homesick because people are offering each other comfort and they do not want to be left “on their own” as it were, and here by creating a virtual space where people with something in common are meeting to discuss common problems or things they like.

Generally on the Toy town Germany Forum there are less “personal” conversations and it is a lot more practical. Similarly to Deutsche in London Forum, people respond quickly so it is almost like a conversation however they have not included as many personal details as on the German website. It is used by more people and by all English speaking people, not exclusively those people from England and thus this could be a reason for the more practical nature of the website because they are less of an online community. There are some more conversational posts and these have plenty of emoticons used as if in apology for being too casual on a forum which is being used for mainly practical terms rather than “just chatting”. Perhaps due to this practical purpose there are less quotation marks for people using different languages, less shouting i.e. capital letters and overall it was more like written language. The one thing that makes this forum more like the spoken language is the action of turn taking.


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