Laura Grooves Electronic communication Is a hybrid of spoken, written and digital communication. Using linguistic theories and ethnographic methods, this paper examines how the unique language composition of email contributes to miscommunication between individuals. Until written language evolves to account for electronic media, careful reading and writing of email, recognition of its hybrid nature, and occasionally bypassing It as a “Writing evolves when language has to take on new functions in society” M. A. K.
The theories of M. A. K. Holiday and William Chafe on the relative properties of spoken and written communication are articulacy useful. The ethnographic data came from a year of participant observation, supplemented by fourteen interviews and more than 200 pages of email conversations. The interview subjects represent a wide range of ages, occupations, and computer experience. This overview is intended as a precursor to intensive, statistically-structured surveys.
Chafe also posits these spoken/written contrasts: More time to edit versus “on the fly. ” Writers have the luxury of thinking through words and phrases, making careful selections, and editing. Speakers just choose words and phrases as they go. Once spoken, a word cannot be edited out. Literary versus colloquial vocabulary. Where a writer might say “my children,” a speaker might choose “my kids,” creating a freshness absent in formal writing. Decisive versus vague. In choosing language more carefully, writers seldom resort to spoken qualifiers such as “sort of,” or “l guess. (1) Holiday Chafe Writing lexical density self-monitored product time to edit literary vocabulary more decisive complex grammar natural, spontaneous process immediate choices aliquot vocabulary more vague Effect of Electronic Media on Communication Based on my observations and Tenet’s work, I have derived the following characteristics of email. Pseudo-Realities of Email. Speed of transmission is a critical area which blurs the lines between written and spoken. Email correspondents have a sense of it as realities conversation and tend to make immediate responses. Writers type rapidly, ignoring rules of spelling and formal writing.
They use conversational grammar, thereby decreasing informational density and increasing grammatical complexity. People also read email quickly, often missing important points intended by the writer, and guessing at the writer’s facial expression and voice tone. Expression of Emotion. Writing often neutralizes the expression of negative emotion; however, in email, “we find a striking tendency to sudden flare-ups of anger and insult, known in the e-world as flaming. ” (2) The personal interactions, conversational tone, and safety of not being face-to-face open a space for the expression of human emotion.
The near-immediacy of email encourages responding in the midst f unexamined emotion. One participant said, “l sent back an angry response immediately. ” Those who have received flames but never sent them regard them in a derogatory manner, as something harmful that should not be tolerated. Those who have deliberately sent flames see them as necessary. One participant even said, “A good flame war is cathartic every now and then. ” Several conventions have arisen to handle emotional interchange. “Emoticons” are pictorial representations of emotions using typographical symbols (viewed sideways), such as: ;-