Because Internet: the new linguistics of informal English

I’m planning to begin my online Shakespeare class with commentary on how it’s a good thing that language changes, so that students will (I hope) see the effort they will need to put into understanding English from 400 years ago as part of the process of engaging with a living language, the same process that inspires each generation to change the language to suit their needs.

Large-scale analysis of internet communications — old BBSes and forums, mailing lists and blogs, social media and texts — is yielding new insights into the patterns and evolution of informal speech, and McCulloch’s insightful, lively chronicle of that new discipline and its conclusions make for fun, informative reading.

One fascinating theme running through McCulloch’s account is the way that informal writers resort to typographical tricks to create nuance, play, and mood in their words, from ALL-CAPS SHOUTING to all lowercase minimalism to ~*~sparkle emphasis~*~ to the use of tildes to signify drawn~ out~ words~, a convention that started in Japanese online communications, spread through southeast Asia, and then to western conversations by way of anime fandom.

Especially interesting is the chapter on emoji, which proposes that emoji are not (as is commonly claimed) a new language, but rather a form of digital “gesture” and “emblem”: two vital forms of communication which have antique and verbal equivalents, but which were largely lost in the digital transition, only to come roaring back (a later chapter on memes also traces the historic and verbal equivalents to these fascinating components of online informal communications). —BoingBoing