Language and the Internet

(Axel Boer) #1

The language of chatgroups 141

may in due course become a generic term: a message titled ‘more
on Jeff’ does not have anything to do with Jeff as a person, but with
the content of the message he sent. The one-to-many nature of the
interaction thus makes a formal greeting unlikely.^21 Newcomers to
the group, or people renewing contact after an absence, may begin
their message with a ‘Hello everyone’ type of remark, especially
if the group is small and closed in membership (as in a school
class conference).^22 ‘Ordinary’ people writing to a personality (e.g.
in a group which has been set up to discuss a particular work,
with the involvement of the artist or author) often begin with the
personality’s name. And when personalities respond, they tend to
greet their interlocutors by name, dealing with a series of messages
in classroom conferences also count as personalities, in this respect.
But most writers go straight into the body of their message without
any greeting.
A common technique is to introduce a message with an explicit
reference to a previous posting, usually in the form of a quotation
from it or a paraphrase of it, as in these opening sentences:

(1) We’re all democrats at heart? I don’t think so.
(2) I never thought I’d hear someone talking about people power,
not in 2000.
(3)>I was living in a different universe. [The writer has pasted
this sentence from a previous message.] Isn’t that the truth!
(4) Animated more, I’d say. [The writer is referring to a previous
question: ‘Are we animals?’]

Lengthy quotation is unusual – indeed, unnecessary, because the
to the accuracy of quotation, and quotation marks are unusual. It
is the spirit rather than the letter of a message which is seen to
be significant, and earlier phrasing can be adapted to suit the new

(^21) Inthissituation.Animportantdifferencebetweenasynchronousandsynchronousgroups
is that contributors to the latter do acknowledge the group in greetings and farewells.
22 Indeed, it is considered bad form if they do not (pp. 154–5).
‘Hello’ sequences, often ludic, were a feature of the classroom sample studied by Gillen
and Goddard (2000).

Free download pdf