classic case of chicken and the egg?

So tell me, which came first: gender or purpose? what, you ask well, let me explain. last night i spent a long, lovely time in the bathtub reading Jennifer Coates introductory book, Women Men and Language. In the chapter discussing quantitative studies, Coates exemplified the classic sociolinguistic gender pattern: i.e., that men tend to speak in regional dialects, while women tend to strive for the standard dialect (due to reasons such as prestige and covert prestige). All the studies shown in this book were separated by *both* gender and socioeconomic patterns. Which makes me wonder it the emphasis on the socioeconomic does not skew the findingsat least making it difficult to say that it is only gender at work. What makes me question this mix are the findings I have read in the last two days by Herring, as well as by Huffaker and Calvert. Both studies (and I will look more at the Huffaker/Calvery article later), showed non-significant relationship with gender and variables traditionally associated with gender. There was a much stronger correlation with genre. And this makes me start to think if gender can be more easily disguised online, and patterns hereto associated with gender are not present in any significant way, then maybe gender was not the defining characteristic after all. Maybe features traditionally associated with gender (hedging, pronoun usage, etc.) have much more to do with the communicative purpose and the audience than the speaker/writer’s gender.

Comparing these off-line and online patterns is helping me focus my next hypotheses (article forthcoming). One aspect I want to examine is each posts communicative purpose and intended audience to determine if patterns traditionally associated with the bloggers gender could actually be originating from the purpose.

Medium as message

Yesterday I went through the 80+ pages of templates looking for a nice base to tweak. While template surfing, I was struck by the change in space available for the post. Or perhaps it would be better to say the attention given to the post rather than the space available. I wonder if this is a reflection of RSS reading? With RSS you bring the content back to youno stylesheet included. If you want to get readers to interact on your site, however, maybe a flashy template is necessary

Or maybe blogging content is running dry? Maybe the luster has worn off a bit. Maybe we are running out of things to say. Maybe the medium really is becoming the message. It is all of a sudden so cool to have a blog (well, relatively cool :-P). Newspapers and business have jumped on the bandwagon, and often they miss a key aspect of blogging the conversation. In order to have a nice little conversation, you need a bit of content to converse about. No coffee talk lady giving you a topic and telling you to discuss it amongst yourselves while she whimpers Im a little verklempt! in the background, but real content. A debate. A discussion. A way to group around and support each other. Interaction.


I have been looking at blogging for three years now and it has changed from a very textual medium to one that is also quite visual. But at what cost? How much content are we loosing? Dont get me wrong, there are some visual blogs are that rich in content but others are just rich in pixels. Blogging has passed the proverbial tipping point and soon (maybe) all those who blog for bloggings sake will jump away and content will once again reign supremeat least that is my clichéd pipe-dream 🙂

(A little side note, I am really not sure this theme is me still feels like I am wearing something a bit too bright)

Biber, Milroy and Bell

reading different articles from the excellent book, style and sociolinguistic variation. the material is somewhat heavy and i think i am in need of a bit of chocolate to keep me going

This is what i have understood so far:

Biber claims that Bells view (that style presupposes the social) is off and that it is actually the communicative functions of language that trump or at the very least, influence social variation. However, Milroy counters that if you delve deeper into communicative functions that you will actually find the classic sociolinguistic finding that if a feature is found to be more common in the lower classes than in the upper classes, it will also be more common in the less formal than the most formal styles. (from Biber/Romaine 1980:228). All seem to agree that differential access by social groups to communicative praxis and to literacy practices are central to an account of differentiated linguistic repertoires (Milroy, this volume:268).

How does this apply?

Well, online you have a strange language contact situation. You do not have one geographical community of practice – although you do have a (depending on the community) fairly strong associations with your community. It would be nice and convenient to say that communication is the clear goal of blogging – but we all know that is not true. As in any other COP, networking (through linking, reference, etc) is nearly (if not as) important as communication.

But I am still trying to figure out what are the best variables to look at when studying blogging COPs. I like Bibers situational parameters: planning, shared context and purpose. I also like Bells concept of audience design. I agree with Milroy that it is not only about the communicative function, but that there are underlying social parameters at work as well so how do you blend these theories? Which variables will help me understand what is going on?

The Internet is destroying the apostrophe!!

(I guess that sarcasm is difficult to express through a blog).

Down here in HUMlab, we are made up of quite a few linguists – or budding linguists – who are interested in CMC and articles like this one from the Toronto Star about how the Internet is killing off punctuation is just one more in a line of scare pieces about what the Internet is doing to language. I could sum it up for you, but a weblog I have recently found and really like, mikes web log, does such a great job that I thought I would just point you there. Enjoy.

Here is “Adios Apostrophe” by Jen Gerson

The Internet is killing off punctuation it doesn’t need, want or comprehend Compound words, hyphens are also facing extermination, by Jen Gerson

Jun. 6, 2006. 01:00 AM


Its? It’s? ’90s? One word, two? A hyphen? Huh? It’s old, it’s useless, it’s annoying and according to one linguist, the Internet bell doth toll for the apostrophe, among and other arcane punctuation.”People are absolutely confused about punctuation, particularly about apostrophes,” says Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics at American University in Washington, D.C., and author of Alphabet to Email: How written English has evolved and where it’s going. As if to prove the point, the publisher accidentally left out the apostrophe of the “it’s” on one of the first drafts of the book jacket. Baron researches the effect of instant messengers, email and SMS on language. And she says that in the next 10 years, the Internet will shave the fat off of questionably useful punctuation.”If you Google a word with an apostrophe, Google doesn’t care,” she says.It’s true. A search for 90’s, ’90s and 90s’ turns up the same 10 websites, albeit in different orders. Equally insignificant for Google were compound words and the hyphen. Most literate users won’t distinguish between e-mail and email, for instance, in the world according to search engines, it’s all email to them.”Language changes over time naturally. But now we’re very confused,” Baron says.URLs’ tendency to string separate words into one long address isn’t helping language hold its form either.Linguistically speaking, the next decade will see these niceties of language become “largely a free for all, whether you have one word or two or a hyphen,” Baron says.The Internet is reinforcing bad English habits started during the linguistically lackadaisical ’60s and ’70s, she says.”There are other social forces affecting languages that make them far more informal than it used to,” she says, citing the decline in formal tone and grammatical discipline set in motion in public education during the feel-good, express-yourself-as-you-will, don’t-be-hampered-by-the-Man-with-the-red-pen hippie era.”The Internet reinforces that,” Baron says.Despite the apostrophe’s problems, computer-speak isn’t destroying English entirely.No matter how much you’re into what’s become common online language, calling that smacktard you’ve met on AOL a n00b does not mean that you’re cool, either.Yes, LOL, WTF, 😉 and other obscure cryptic truncations and symbols once only known by netizens and niche geeks have seeped into common, if informal use, as instant messaging and email have become more frequent.But Baron says that the day of abbreviating phrases and encrypting communication is ending.She has found that while coded language is common among young teenagers, once a given person becomes more confident with typing and computers, the abbreviations and corruptions are abandoned.The reason is simple: It often takes more time and effort to decode abbreviations than it does to spell out phrases in full. And l33t , a computer language that Microsoft has even provided dictionaries for, to help parents decode it is now an online in-joke and refuge of computer nubcakes, ahem, that is to say, people new to online culture.In a compilation of 500 computer-based corruptions and abbreviations, David Crystal, author of the book Language and the Internet, and professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, says only about a dozen are commonly used, in fewer than a fifth of all emails and instant messages.”There’s little evidence that this is impacting the youth culture where it evolved,” he says.It is, however, hanging around. l33t-speak is a way of chatting on message boards, forums and instant messenger that replaces l3773r5 w/ |\|umb3r5 & 5`/mb0l5 (translation: letters with numbers and symbols).Its origins are obscure and in dispute. But it most likely began on early Internet bulletin board systems among hackers and software pirates, (i.e. the Web elite shortened to leet or l33t). They would use the corruption of the letters to bypass software that scanned words to detect illegal activity.Spammers today use l33t to get around email filters and send advertisements for \/1agr@, for instance. L33t hit the Net big in the mid-’90s with the advent of the video game Doom.Once the game began to allow more than one person to play and communicate with one another over the Internet, the nefarious origins of l33t made it perfect for in-game trash talking.But that’s as big as it looks like it’s ever going to get. Teenagers are identifying with the technology and using and using the corruptions of the language as a slang, “to show that you’re one of the guys,” Crystal says. For example, saying that someone was pwn’d in a game means that they were owned, or beaten. But the forces that kill all trends killed it became just mainstream enough not to matter to the ones who started it all. Once the speak was picked up by the teenybopper set busy LOLing and IMing each other eager to prove their Net-cred, the elite largely abandoned, unless it was used to mock someone as a n00b.

seminar tomorrow

tomorrow is the seminar i have been getting ready for all week. and with it, i have coined a new term. i don’t like the term blogosphere. it is not at all descriptive of the actually patterns of communities of bloggers. i have re-dubbed for tomorrow, as well as in the paper, the term blogosphere to blogowhorl. this is much more the picture you get over time – gradual thematic shifts  and fluid conversation. as we all know, blogging is anything but a static artifact floating out in cyberspace, it is a whirling entity full of energy it can be destructive or enlightening or boring and anti-climatic. i think a whorl is a nice description for blogging communities.