Рубрика: 5. Общее и прикладное языкознание
Дата публикации: 05.11.2014
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Бедретдинова И. А., Михалева А. И. Internet slang [Текст] // Филология и лингвистика в современном обществе: материалы III Междунар. науч. конф. (г. Москва, ноябрь 2014 г.). — М.: Буки-Веди, 2014. С. 53-56.
This article deals with the topic of modern internet slang, its peculiarities and usage. It also describes the relations between society and language and the impact of internet slang on language in general.
Keywords: language, internet slang, dialects, LOLspeak, leetspeak, netglish.
Language is a very complicated and multilayered system that is changing and growing constantly. One of the language layers is slang. It is defined in Oxford Dictionary as ‘type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people’ . According to Urban Dictionary, slang is ‘the continual and ever-changing use and definition of words in informal conversation’ . Thus, we can single out two main feature of slang:
- It is normally used in informal speech (rather oral than written)
- It is used as a ‘secret language’ by certain groups of people
Slang can be divided into different groups: professional slang, regional slang, teenage slang, etc. But nowadays with the rapid growth of internet community it is especially relevant to consider internet slang. It can be defined as ‘type of slang that Internet users have popularized, and in many cases, have coined’. It mostly tends to creating abbreviations; shorten forms of words and developing use of keyboard symbols. David Crystal, editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, comments on it: «So far we have been communicating in speech, writing and with sign language. But the internet is neither speech nor writing. It has aspects of both and represents a new form» .
Even though today internet slang is comprehensible to all internet users, the first dialect of it was created by hackers and was originally considered confidential. It was called leet-speak or 1337 and was basically an alternative alphabet, in which each letter was represented by a number, a key-board symbol or a combination of numbers or/and symbols. Sometimes one letter could have various replacements (for example, A could be written as /-\ or /\ or 4 or @). The name for this language was created by misspelling word ‘elite’ (it can also be spelled ‘eleet-speak’) and then reproducing letters with the mentioned alphabet symbols: 1 for L, 3 for e and 7 for t.
These are general rules for the leet-speak replacements:
1. The main principle on which replacements are found is graphic resemblance between letters and symbols or numbers, for example, in word 5p34k à speak. 5 looks like S, 3 looks like letter E written backwards and 4 is similar to A.
2. Not only graphic, but also sound resemblance can be used, like in SEZ à says. In this case, the replacement is basically about transcribing. The transcription is [sɛz], thus, Z stands for the final S and letter E represents sound /ɛ/.
3. Another feature of leetspeak is capitalizing consonants or even dropping vowels out. For example, srsly à seriously; rly à really.
4. Typing errors are not corrected in leetspeak, such as, htis à this.
5. Keyboard symbols can be used to create the shape of a letter, for example, |3r13|= à brief, where |3 is B and |= is F (also 1 stands for I and 3 for E)
6. To create a plural form of a noun leetspeakers use suffix ‘0rz’. Example: b00k0rz à books .
In the course of time this language has lost its elitism and original function. Today hardcore gamers use this language to insult other players. It has also effected texting (SMS) language, where some letters can be replaced by numbers, even though the principle of replacement is slightly different: sound or graphic similarity (for example, 2NTE à tonight, L8R à later). The variants of this dialect exist in many languages including Russian. Thus, in different languages different symbols and associations might be used. For example, bl à Ы or /\ à Л.
The other dialect of internet slang is LOLspeak (or LOLcat), that has its own spelling rules based mostly on sound resemblance of words (homonymous misspelling) and ‘playing’ with grammar rules. The roots of its dialect go back to funny pictures of cats accompanied with grammatically incorrect captions. The images themselves first appeared in 2005 on a website called “Caturday” that was registered on April 30, 2005. However, the term “LOLcat” was not attested until June 2006. Back then, it was first used on the imageboard forum “4chan”. And then, the domain name «LOLcats.com» was registered on June 14, 2006. Vaughan and Gawne identify LOLspeak as a form of language play that serves in-group cohesion: if you’re in on the joke, you’re part of the community . These are general rules of LOLcat.
1. Borrowing the spelling of certain parts of one word to misspell another word that shares certain phonetic sounds (or that just rhymes). Ex.: ghost àgoast or ghoast (borrowing from «toast» or «coast»); moan àmown (borrowing from «own» or «mow»)
2. Words that end in a silent «e« that have a consonant before often exchange the two last letters (like à liek; come à coem)
3. In words that end in «er», either the «e« is dropped, replaced with «u«, or the ending is changed to «ah» (over à ovah\ovur\ovr)
4. Diphthongs (multiple vowel sounds in one syllable) are often exaggerated or misplaced (Baby à baybeh; funny àfunneh)
5. «Th» sounds are usually replaced with «f«, but can occasionally be replaced with «tt» or «dd» (Nothing à Nofin, nuttin; With à wif).
6. Adding «d« or «ed» to atypical spellings of past-tense verbs/verbals or their present-tense forms (ate à eated; made à maded)
7. Pronouns are severely transformed (I am àIz; U Pluralà yuz; his à him; their à dem) .
The example of use of LOLcat is: He went to the store and came back with nothing. He is very bad! à Him goed to teh stowr an caem bak wif nofin! Him is vewee wet!
LOLcat also includes baby-talk, common typing errors, kindergarten misspellings and community-specific mannerisms found on online message boards .
Both Leet-speak and LOLcat are now being used by internet society, but their popularity is decreasing because of the development of social networks. ‘Social network service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities.’ It has become an essential part of modern people life (especially among teenagers and young people). All these active users form some sort of subculture that demands its own language. The reasons internet users are in need of new form of communication are different. First of them is invention of new technological and on-line phenomena that implies use of new words. Such words are called neologisms. They can be specifically created, such as google à to google (from the search engine name the verb was created) that originally meant ‘to look for in google’ but now has transformed into simply ‘to look, to search’. Another example is app that is a smartphone or a web software. But usually neologisms are created by means of modification of existing words. Such as ‘social networking’ itself. The notion was defined for the first time in 1973 and back then it was ‘the use or establishment of social networks or connections’ . Only recently, the phrase got linked to internet-based activities.
Another reason of creating new sign system is technical and is mostly connected with Twitter, where the number of characters is limited to 140. Thus, tweeps (twitter users) have to find the ways to express their feelings and opinions in shorter forms. In addition, most people prefer to communicate in social networks via smartphones rather than PCs. Therefore, it is much easier and more convenient to use fragments — abbreviated and truncated words and even sentences. The rules of punctuation are also not always followed, as it requires switching keyboard screens. Thus, ungrammatical forms can be used. Ex.: “I can’t find the document?” instead of “I can’t find the document. Do you know where it is?” The other reason people use fragments is that it helps to express emotions, especially if this fragment accompanies a link or a media file. In this case, short and capacious words (or abbreviations) are preferable. For example, simple ‘LOVE’, ‘OMG’ (Oh My God) or ‘Stahp it!’ (Stop it) in the caption are much more meaningful than full grammatically correct sentences. Moreover, people on the internet are not normally inclined to reading long comments and notes, which means it is much easier to get attention by something compact and eye-grabbing. Besides, according to Patricia T. O’Conner, the author of several books on language, ‘Because so much of the Internet is image-driven, people are compelled to use much stronger language than they might ordinarily to compete with the image’ .
For this reason and also because of their emotional and expressive fullness emoji are widely used nowadays. Emoji are the tiny pictures you can put on your texts. They were born in Japan but by now have spread all over the world. However, while in Japan emoji are equally popular with people of all age, in other countries they are considered more appropriate if used by young people. They are especially valuable as they play the same role (along with gifs — small animated pictures) that hand gestures, mimicry and other forms of nonverbal communication play in the real-life conversations. Thus, emoji bring on-line conversations closer to real life and make it less ‘dry’. They have become so popular among smartphone users, that emoji have been added to the phones virtual keyboard along with regular alphabetic keyboard.
Last thing is, as it was mentioned in the beginning, the desire of internet community to make their language ‘secret’, only comprehensible to the members of this society. It is especially relevant regarding teenagers. For them internet slang can be the means of socializing and joining to some kind of subculture; of separating themselves from the ‘adult world’ by creating one on their own. Following this idea, using all the stated methods teens create their secret code that is sometimes very difficult to decode and interpret. The teenager’s internet language abounds in abbreviations, cut-downs, intentional distortions and seemingly common phrases that can be misunderstood or seem pointless for people, not familiar with the features of internet slang. For example, a very common internet expression ‘want a cookie’ has nothing to do with bakery but is actually used as a sarcastic response to perceived bragging. Another example: ‘want a piece of this’ means ‘want to fight’ and usually is used in calling someone out. In general, internet conversations tend to be rather aggressive and vulgar, and one of the purposes of creating this new slang is to cover and soften the rudeness of situation.
Regarding abbreviations, acronyms and cut-downs, it is especially difficult to understand their meaning as their amount is growing rapidly and not all of them stay in language. Often enough such units remain comprehensible only for a small group of people and fade away soon. However, there are still fragments used and recognized by all the internet society members, including abbreviations like ily à I love you, idk à I don’t know; cut-downs like fab à fabulous; fave à favourite; distortions like I dunno à I don’t know, lemme à let me.
The impact that internet slang has already had on real-life language (especially English) is already noticeable. It is very common nowadays (particularly amongst teenagers) to use internet abbreviations such as OMG in their spoken language. Some say these lexical units will strike roots while others are rather skeptical about it. They are more inclined to believe that specific internet grammar will influence both spoken and written language . However, those are only predictions and only time will tell. As for now, some researchers have already singled out Netglish (Internet + English) as an individual language. It is no wonder that it is English language that has been combined with the language of internet. In 2013 English was the majority of internet users was English speaking — more than 800 million users. Two other nationalities represented in the top-3 were Chinese (about 650 million) and Spanish (222 million) . Nevertheless, 55.7 % of web content uses English language. Next language on the list is German with only 6,7 % of content . Thus, a substantial amount of internet users whose mother tongue is not English deal with this language on a daily basis. It has led researchers to the idea that by 2050 more than a half of world population will have become rather fluent in English. The problem is, this form of English is not what we are used to. Most likely, it will be so-called International Colloquial English (or ICE). It is based on English but includes some borrowings from other languages and text-abbreviations and internet slang (including symbols). Basically it means that ICE represents a new form of language: firstly, it combines oral and written speech; secondly, it enables people to communicate in an absolutely different way: one person can be simultaneously involved in dozens of conversations, as well as one conversation may involve dozens of people.
Summing up, internet slang can be difficult to understand and is considered by some people simply as dumping-down of ‘google generation’ and their disability to express their opinion with traditional language means. It is doubtless, though, that language itself is a constantly developing system, sensitive to all the social changes. Modern society is very busy and highly communicative which means it needs faster and more efficient ways of information exchange. Internet slang with its conciseness and emotionality suits this idea perfectly. Not only it enables people to express their feelings and opinions swiftly with few pushes of keyboard buttons but as well helps to increase the amount of information being decreased. It is particularly relevant in ‘information boom’ era.
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