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Internet Speak: The Evolution Of Language On The Internet

3051 words - 12 pages

Internet Speak: The Evolution of Language on the Internet

People everywhere with text message cell phones and online chat services are taking part in the evolution of language on the Internet. To the uninitiated this Internet lingo, or Internet Speak, can look like a completely different and utterly incomprehensible language. Some people claim it is a corruption or a decay of the English language, citing the notorious lack of capitals and proper punctuation or spelling. The truth about Internet Speak is that it is an outgrowth of English. It allows the people who use it a great deal of personal freedom, within the established language, to determine how their speech patterns will reflect their personality. Whereas in mainstream English one has the choice of whether or not to use certain words, a person who uses Internet Speak to communicate online has the choice of a wide range of modified syntax and grammar patterns. This Internet language differs both from person to person and from one online community to the next. It is constantly growing and changing in ways determined by those who use it to communicate. As a continuously developing form of communication the language of the Internet tends to grow from its pre-Internet roots to fit the needs of those who use it, causing Internet Speak to evolve to emphasize personalization, community identity, ease of use, and an emulation of the way spoken language is used in face to face communication.

In order to discuss how something is evolving it is necessary to first look at the roots from which it came. It is thus necessary to look at both the history of the Internet itself and of several forms of communication that predate the Internet before discussing Internet Speak. Looking back before the Internet as we know it today came into common public usage one can find roots of Internet Speak in dozens of communication technologies such as telegrams, telephones, and radios. One example with some of the clearest correlations with Internet Speak is CB radio. CB, or citizen’s band, radio is a range of frequencies set apart for general civilian use. While it used to be much more prevalent, nowadays CB is mainly used in remote areas, where cell phone reception may not be reliable, and by dispatchers, cabbies, and long distance truckers. As recently as the eighties cabbies used CB radio as their connection to a safety net of fellow drivers, as in the case of cab drivers in Chicago who used CB to recover stolen cabs and call for help subduing rowdy passengers (Lux). CB has many striking similarities to Internet Speak, most prominently the use of handles and jargon. The screen names which promote personalization and obscure acronyms that promote a definite sense of community make up some of the integral parts of Internet Speak. The various precursors of Internet Speak were present even long before the advent of instant messaging and email. It flourishes in the open arena of cyberspace, it was not born there....

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