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Always OnLanguage in an Online and Mobile World$
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Naomi S. Baron

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195313055

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195313055.001.0001

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Is the Internet Destroying Language?

(p.161) 8 “Whatever”
Always On


Oxford University Press

Data on instant messaging and text messaging suggest that at least among a sample of American college students, electronic language is at most a very minor dialectal variation. Yet these findings notwithstanding, there's an international perception that computers and mobile phones are affecting everyday language, and that these effects are generally not for the better. This chapter considers whether written language used on the Internet (and by extension, on mobile phones) is influencing offline writing, and perhaps even speech. The discussion looks at the current state of offline writing (for example, the kind that appears in newspapers, essays, or formal advertisements). The second stage addresses the normative question: Is electronically-mediated communication a linguistic free-for-all, or are there shared rules that users either follow or violate? The chapter proposes several ways in which the Internet may actually be shaping the ways people write and speak.

Keywords:   Internet, language, mobile phones, writing, electronically-mediated communication, speech, electronic language

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