Netspeak is the name that has been given to the long list of acronyms and smiley faces that have evolved with the internet.

Netspeak is a Web service which assists authors in writing English texts. Writing is an everyday task and sometimes everyone finds it difficult to put something into the right words, e.g., if one misses a word or wonders which wording is more common. In such and similar cases Netspeak offers help: the customariness of a wording in written language can be determined, and alternative wordings can be retrieved.

Examples of Netspeak:

Linguistically, the most interesting feature of Netspeak is its morphology. Acronyms and abbreviations make up a large part of Net jargon. FAQ (Frequently Asked Question), MUD (Multi-User-Dungeon), and URL (Uniform Resource Locator) are some of the most frequently seen TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) on the Internet. General abbreviations abound as well, in more friendly and conversationally conducive forms, such as TIA (Thanks In Advance), BRB (Be Right Back), BTW (By The Way), and IMHO (In My Humble Opinion.) These abbreviations can be baffling to new users, and speaking in abbreviations takes some getting used to. Once users are used to them, though, such abbreviations are a nice and easy way of expediting communication.


David Crystal’s analysis.

Language and the Internet (second edition) presents an updated description
of how the Internet is affecting the way in which people use language. It
covers a wide range of Internet genres, including e-mails, chatgroups,
virtual worlds, the Web, instant messaging, and blogging. In this book
David Crystal argues that the appearance of ”Netspeak” should not be
considered as a challenge or even threat to standard usages. Instead, the
Internet has created growth in the variety and creativity of language use.

In Chapter 1, David Crystal points out the aim of this book: to explore the
ways in which the Internet medium is having an effect on language. Crystal
first briefly discusses the aspects in which language varies, then
describes commonly seen Internet situations, and finally introduces the
term ”Netspeak”. Very importantly, Crystal notes that ”salient features of
Netspeak … have already begun to be used outside of the situation of
computer-mediated communication, even though the medium has become
available to most people only in the past decade or so” (pp. 20-1).

In Chapter 2, the medium of Netspeak, David Crystal first looks at the
differences between speech and writing and consequently compares ”Netspeak”
with speaking and writing respectively. In so doing, Crystal concludes that
”on the whole, Netspeak is better seen as written language which has been
pulled some way in the direction of speech than spoken language which has
been written down” (pp. 51). Crystal calls it a ”third medium” (pp. 52),
given that it is not simply a collective of spoken and written language. In
this chapter Crystal also discusses ”Netspeak” maxims in light of the
maxims of conversations proposed by the philosopher H. P. Grice.

In Chapter 3, finding an identity, David Crystal first presents the Wired
style’s ten usage principles after Hale and Scanlon (1999), which are 1)
The medium matters, 2) Play with voice, 3) Flaunt your subcultural
literacy, 4) Transcend the technical, 5) Capture the colloquial, 6)
Anticipate the future, 7) Be irreverent, 8) Brave the new world of new
media, 9) Go global, and 10) Play with dots and dashes and slashes. In the
following, Crystal describes some distinctive linguistic features of
”Netspeak”, for example, its unique spelling and punctuation usages.
Crystal observes that up until this stage the most distinctive features of
”Netspeak” are still located in its lexicon and graphology, while unique
grammatical features are much less frequent.

In Chapters 4-8, David Crystal examines in detail the language used in six
different Internet situations, namely, emails (Chapter 4), chatgroups
(Chapter 5), virtual worlds (Chapter 6), the web (Chapter 7), and blogging
and instant messaging (Chapter 8), given that ”Netspeak is a complex and
mixed-message scenario, which can really only be understood by a detailed
consideration of the individual Internet situations” (pp. 98).

In each case, Crystal has discovered ”clear signs of the emergence of a
distinctive variety of language, with characteristics closely related to
the properties of its technological context as well as to the intentions,
activities, and (to some extent) personalities of the users” (pp. 258). In
these five chapters, Crystal not only explores the linguistics of different
Internet genres but also how each Internet situation actually works. In
this sense, these chapters partly serve as a manual to Internet novices.

In Chapter 9, the linguistic future of the Internet, David Crystal argues
that a new communication technology inevitably has linguistic consequences.
Furthermore, language serves as an index of social change and the arrival
of the Internet as a means of communication definitively qualifies as a
radical social change. Both factors point to potential changes in the way
in which people use their language. Crystal also remarks that research into
Internet language is still in its early stages. Given that ”Netspeak is a
development of millennial significance” (pp. 272) and that ”a new medium of
linguistic communication does not arrive very often, in the history of the
race” (pp. 272), continuous and larger-scale investigation into Internet
language is strongly called for.

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