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«Gist Education and LEarninG rEsEarch JournaL. issn 1692-5777. no. 9, (JuLy- dEcEmbEr) 2014. pp. 124-141. Linguistic Symbol Intraference in Textese ...»

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Gist Education and LEarninG rEsEarch JournaL. issn 1692-5777.

no. 9, (JuLy- dEcEmbEr) 2014. pp. 124-141.

Linguistic Symbol Intraference

in Textese and E-mailese:

Implications for Teaching and

Learning Standard English1

Intraferencia de Símbolos Lingüísticos en Mensajes de

Texto y Correos Electrónicos: Implicaciones para la

Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje de Inglés Estándar

Omowumi Steve Bode Ekundayo2*

University of Benin, Nigeria

Abstract This paper examines how senders of text messages and informal e-mail redeploy linguistic symbols innovatively to communicate. Even a cursory look at an SMS text (textese) and informal e-mail (e-mailese) will show that its style is different from that of formal writing. Two thousand twenty text messages and five hundred informal e-mail were studied from June 2004 to May 2013 to establish how linguistic symbols intrafere; that is, how they are taken from their known and established areas of application and redeployed in text messages and e-mails, where they are not formally used. The texts and e-mails were analysed against the backdrop of formal English writing rules and items. The study, which is historical and descriptive, shows that senders creatively redeploy the extant writing signs and rules of English in new ways and environments; hence, the habit is conceptualised as the intraference of linguistic symbols and rules.

Intraference is the redeployment of linguistic rules and features from where they have been established by usage to other areas in the same language where they did not used to apply. The paper asserts that the methods of SMS and e-mail will not ruin effective communication in English. Rather, the methods display a new interesting variety according to a “techno-linguistic” dimension.

124 This variety refers to the creative redeployment of extant language rules and items as constrained by the dynamics of technological or mechanical devices, Received: July 21, 2014 / Accepted: October 6, 2014 ekuns20@yahoo.com No. 9 (July - December 2014) bodE which should be isolated and taught as such in Standard English, or Educated Nigerian English in this case.

Keywords: Intraference, linguistic symbols, textese, e-mailese, technomechanical, Educated Nigerian English.

Resumen El artículo expone cómo los remitentes de mensajes de texto y correo electrónico informal utilizan símbolos lingüísticos de una forma innovadora para comunicarse. Incluso una mirada somera a un mensaje de texto o correo electrónico informal mostrará que su estilo es diferente al utilizado en un escrito formal. Dos mil veinte mensajes de texto y quinientos correos electrónicos informales fueron analizados desde junio de 2004 a marzo de 2013 para establecer cómo es la intraferencia de símbolos lingüísticos; es decir, cómo son tomados de los ámbitos de aplicación comúnmente conocidos y reasignados en los mensajes de texto y correos electrónicos donde no son formalmente usados.

Los textos y mensajes de correo electrónico fueron analizados bajo el contexto de las reglas de escritura formal del idioma inglés. Este estudio histórico y descriptivo muestra que los remitentes cambian creativamente la ubicación de los signos de escritura al crear nuevas formas de uso de las reglas del inglés y sus entornos de aplicación. Por lo tanto, el hábito es concebido como la intraferencia de símbolos lingüísticos y reglas. Intraferencia es la redistribución de las reglas lingüísticas y las características que han sido establecidos por su uso en otros ámbitos del mismo lenguaje donde no se solían aplicar. El artículo afirma que los métodos de mensajes de texto y correo electrónico no afectan la efectiva comunicación en inglés. Por el contrario, los métodos de visualización son una nueva e interesante manera de comunicación de acuerdo con la dimensión tecnolingüística. Esta variedad de símbolos hace referencia a la distribución creativa de las normas lingüísticas existentes por la dinámica limitada de los dispositivos mecánicos o tecnológicos, los cuales deben ser aislados y enseñados como tales en el inglés estándar o para este caso, en el inglés nigeriano formal.

Palabras clave: Intraferencia, símbolos lingüísticos, mensajes de texto, correos electrónicos, tecnomecánico, inglés nigeriano formal.

Resumo O artigo expõe como os remetentes de mensagens de texto e correio eletrônico informal utilizam símbolos linguísticos de uma forma inovadora para comunicar-se. Inclusive vendo por cima uma mensagem de texto ou correio eletrônico informal, mostrará que seu estilo é diferente ao utilizado em um escrito formal. Duas mil e vinte mensagens de texto e quinhentos correios eletrônicos informais foram analisados desde junho de 2004 a março de 2013 para estabelecer como é a intraferência de símbolos linguísticos; melhor dito, como são tomados dos âmbitos de aplicação mais conhecidos e redesignados nas mensagens de texto e correios eletrônicos onde não são formalmente

No. 9 (July - December 2014) LinGuistic symboL intrafErEncE

usados. Os textos e mensagens de correio eletrônico foram analisados sob o contexto das regras de escritura formal do idioma inglês. Este estudo histórico e descritivo mostra que os remetentes mudam criativamente a localização dos signos de escritura, ao criar novas formas de uso das regras do inglês e seus entornos de aplicação. Portanto, o hábito é concebido como a intraferência de símbolos linguísticos y regras. Intraferência é a redistribuição das regras linguísticas e as características que foram estabelecidas pelo seu uso em outros âmbitos da mesmo linguagem onde não se tinha o hábito aplicar. O artigo afirma que os métodos de mensagens de texto e correio eletrônico não afetam a efetiva comunicação em inglês. Ao contrário, os métodos de visualização são uma nova e interessante maneira de comunicação, de acordo com a dimensão técnicolinguística. Esta variedade de símbolos faz referência à distribuição criativa das normas linguísticas existentes pela dinâmica limitada dos dispositivos mecânicos ou tecnológicos, os quais devem ser isolados e ensinados como tal em inglês padrão, ou para este caso, em inglês nigeriano formal.





Palavras chave: Intraferência, símbolos linguísticos, mensagens de texto, correios eletrônicos, técnico-mecânico, inglês nigeriano formal

–  –  –

T he computer, along with the Internet and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) with cell phones, facilitate the sharing of SMS and e-mail. SMS (Short Message Service) is a menu that enables cell phone users to send and receive short “letters” of 160 words per message. The first SMS was sent on 3rd December 1992 by Neil Papworth, who used a personal computer powered by Vodafone to send a “Merry Christmas” text message to Richard Jarvis’ orbited 901 hand phone (//http//cellphone.about.com//originofsms).

GSM became operational in Nigeria in August 2001. The computer and Internet had come about a decade earlier in the 1990s.

Textese and e-mailese, which invoke the memory of journalese, legalese, officialese, etc., denote SMS and e-mail with their characteristic linguistic features, which are occasioned by the writer, techno-linguistic and mechanical factors. Educated Nigerian writers of SMS and e-mail face the limitations of time and space, lack of computer 126 know-how, the pressure of striving to express so much within so small a space and the high cost of sending e-mail and SMS. In the beginning in 2001, thirty naira, also written as N30, naira being Nigeria’s currency, were charged for an SMS, which has now been reduced to four naira (N4). To send an e-mail, one had to visit a cyber café and buy a timeticket for thirty minutes or an hour, usually a hundred naira or more.

Consequently, writers adopted informal and creative writing methods to No. 9 (July - December 2014) bodE overcome these constraints. Users violate formal orthography, truncate and reorganise the features of the language in order to communicate as briefly as possibly. Interestingly, in most cases, meaning is conveyed despite the strange redeployment of familiar orthographic features.

How should we then view the strange reordering and coinages to which the language is subjected? This paper answers this question by conceptualising the habit as the intraference of linguistic symbols and rules.

In intraference of linguistic symbols, linguistic codes, rules and items are transferred from areas in which they acceptably operate to areas where they do not usually apply, especially in textese and e-mailese. Intraference at this level is cyclical: from formal writing, rules and signs are “hijacked,” that is, seized and used in the new “mechanical space” in innovative ways. The innovative style and formations in turn intrafere in, or are poured back to the formal system

of writing, as shown in these diagrams:

Figure 1. Orthographic symbols and writing rules Figure 2.

A letter with the Intraference of SMS style

–  –  –

These features of text messages and their transfer to formal writing in recent times have caused debates and necessitated many studies globally. This study adds to the corpus of studies in the area. It examines textese and e-mailese against the backdrop of the concept of linguistic symbol intraference.

Literature Review Ekundayo (2006, 2013) coined intraference as a more economical term for “systematic intralingual errors” or “intralingual interference” (Richards & Sampson, 1984, p.13) and “the overgeneralisation of linguistic materials and semantic features” (Selinker, 1984, p.37).

Ekundayo (2006) presents intraference as the opposite of interference and says that it is the transfer of second language rules, items and system from sections where they acceptably operate in the language to sections of the language where they have hitherto not been operating.

“In intraference, the (second) language performer consciously and/or unconsciously engages in self-correction and creativity by using the rules of the language and redeploying grammatical, lexico-semantic, segmental, supra-segmental features and orthographic rules” (Ekundayo, 2013, pp. 33). Ekundayo (2013) asserts that intraference constitutes the extenuating background in which second language learners produce some deviations, variations and creative fabrications, which distinguish ESL. He categorises intraference into the phonological, graphological, morphemic, (morpho-)syntactic and semantic types and sub-types.

The graphological type is divided into formal writing intraference and intraference of orthographic symbols and rules in textese and e-mailese.

Intraference of linguistic symbols denotes the redeployment of linguistic rules and tools in SMS and e-mail. Examples are elicited from Educated Nigerian English (ENE). However, the propositions and discussion here may apply as well to the links and dissimilarities between textese and other Standard (inter)national varieties of English.

The Concept of Nigerian English (NigE) 128 Nigerian English denotes the variety/varieties that literate and educated Nigerians use; often juxtaposed with Standard British English (SBE) and Standard American English (SAE). Region, formal education and (psycho-)sociolinguistic parameters are often used to classify NigE varieties (Jowitt, 2008; Surakat, 2010). In terms of regions, there are Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, Izon, Efik, Edo, Urhobo, etc NigE varieties.

No. 9 (July - December 2014) bodE Although all the regional varieties have many features in common, phonological peculiarities differentiate regional varieties mainly.

Several classifications have been made with formal education and linguistic features. Prominent among them are Brosnahan’s (1958), Banjo’s (1970, 1996) and Odumuh’s (1980) varieties I, II, III and IV.

Banjo’s model, which is the most popular, uses grammatical features and educational levels. Accordingly, Variety I, the lowest, reflects vulgar errors of grammar and broken structures, associated with primary school pupils and those with little formal education. Variety II, an improvement on Variety I, is associated with secondary school students and school certificate holders. Highly educated Nigerians: graduates, teachers, lecturers, professors, writers, broadcasters, etc., use Variety III. Banjo proposes this as the model for Standard Nigerian English (SNE) or Educated Nigerian English (ENE). Lastly, Banjo’s Variety IV is like the native English standard associated with a few Nigerians who were born and brought up in native English-speaking countries or have a parent of English origin and consequently acquired English as their first language. However, most Nigerians regard this fourth variety as too foreign for their liking or use (Banjo, 1996).

Using sociolinguistics, three levels or –lects: basilect, mesolect and acrolecthave been identified. The mesolect is the lowest variety analogous to Banjo’s Variety I. The basilect is the most popular and widely used in Nigeria by junior civil servants, secondary school students and youths with some but not extensive education. The acrolect is used by a few very highly educated Nigerians. It has the greatest prestige and international intelligibility. Banjo’s Variety III, which is also the acrolect on the sociolinguistic pyramid, is often recommended or preferred as the Nigerian standard. Nevertheless, there are overlaps and no “firm dividing lines” (Banjo, 1996, p.79). These typologies are reminiscent of Bernstein’s (1971) concepts of restricted and elaborated codes. Manifestations of restricted codes will be found in the lower varieties of Banjo’s classification and the basilect, which has limited vocabulary and choices of linguistic features, while the elaborated codes will be found in the acrolect and Banjo’s varieties three and four of NigE, which has expanded speech patterns and more choices of language features.

This paper concentrates on the cases of the intraference of linguistic symbols in text messages and informal e-mail by educated Nigerians. Linguistic symbols are signs used to represent sounds, rules and meanings in language. Unlike icons and indexes, symbols are conventional and socio-cultural marks handed down from generation

No. 9 (July - December 2014) LinGuistic symboL intrafErEncE



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