Conversational Exchange in English Chat Groups. Pragmatic Aspects and Difficulties of Netspeak

Academic Paper, 2021

26 Pages

Salih Mahdi Adai Al-Mamoory (Author)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Netspeak

3. Pragmatic Aspects of Netspeak


5. Data Collection

6.Data Analysis and Results

7. Conclusions



As many linguists have investigated the normal type of conversation face to face conversation in terms of Grice's cooperative principle and its maxims,the present paper aims at giving a rigorous pragmatic account of conversational exchange in internet language of English chat groups. Netspeak and/or internet language can be viewed as a medium of expression combining the properties of spoken, written and electronic discourses. Having the hypotheses in hand, this study firstly hypothesizes that Internet Language (henceforth IL) with its maxims, turns and adjacency pairs, are violated in synchronous daily-life conversations. Secondly, an internet utterance does not obey a set of conversational principles– that is all participants are speaking at once which makes the interaction difficult to be followed.

In order to achieve the aims of this paper and test its hypothesis, Crystal's (2006) Language and the Internet, and Crystal's (2011) Internet Linguistics will be adopted in this study. Data analysis shows that the principle of cooperation is often violated in online communication in English for two possible reasons, either due to the lack of linguistic features present in face-to-face communication or due to anonymity in the electronic medium. It also shows that participants in online communication often fail to fulfill cooperative principle with its maxims, and again for two other possible reasons, either due to time pressure for exchange or due to the large number of participants exchanging messages simultaneously or the fast-scrolling screen.

Keywords: Netspeak, Internet Language, Turn Taking, adjacency pairs,Online Chat Groups.

1. Introduction

Netspeak can be viewed as a novel medium combining spoken, written and electronic properties. As many linguists have investigated the normal type of conversation "face to face conversation" according to Grice's cooperative principle and its maxims, the analysis of netspeak conversations is not to suggest that we always behave exactly according to this principle. For example, people who lie or make false claims can be challenged; if they talk too much, they can be told to shut up; if they say something irrelevant, they can be asked to stick the point; and if they fail to make themselves clear, they can be requested to say it again. This means that people do all these things according to these maxims indirectly in mind, but in netspeak things are different, a part of the difficulty arises out of the anonymity inherent in the electronic medium.

Some participants change their names and identities when the multiple interactions take place under pressure. This indicates that the cooperative principle may be broken. So, when someone notices online utterance, she/he does not know how to take it because theydo not know what set of conversational principles this utterance obeys.Thus, this may lead to the violation ofthe conversational maxims in netspeak exchanges (see Crystal, 2006:55).

Tackling the problem of this study, there may be a direct causal link between the lack of coherence in synchronous online communication and its propensity for language play. Hence, some suggestions of recent studies were the motives beyond writing this paper. Such motives can be drawn here as:

a- Synchronous online communication is associated with a reduction of coherence, disruption of turn adjacency and phantom turn adjacency;
b- In synchronous online communication, there is a difficulty in interpreting messages in their sequential context.

This difficulty arises from the fact that turn sequencing is partly user-controlled and partly system-controlled. This leads to disrupted turn adjacency pairs as other stands of conversation get inserted between adjacency pair parts (see Herring, 1999 cited in Vandergiff, 2010:241). Having the scope in hand, this paper focuses only on synchronous online conversations in English chat groups. It aims at finding out how the utterances in online communication are uttered by first speaker and responded by the next, in terms of cooperative principle with its maxims, turn-takings and adjacency pairs. As a result, the problem of this study might be formed in terms of the following questions:

1. What are netspeak 'maxims', 'turn-takings' and 'adjacency pairs' in English?
2. Are they violated in synchronous conversations?

2. Netspeak

Netspeak is a term used to describe the type of distinctive language found on the internet (Crystal, 2004:78). This term serves as an alternative to "Weblish, Netlish, Cyberspace, Internet language, Electronic language, Electronic discourse Interactive written discourse, CMC etc.". These idioms are used before netspeak existed and each idiom has a different collaboration, for example "Netlish and Weblish" are derived from English to make the internet more multilingual (Crystal, 2006:19). Crystal tells that netspeak is a modern medium of communication that does not arrive regularly in the history of the race(ibid:272). He uses the term "Netizen" to refer to those people who spend amount of time on the internet (ibid:4).

Moreover, Netspeak is an interesting form of communication because it depends on characteristics belonging to speech and writing. It displays the properties of both. It is better seen that netspeak as a written language is pulled some way in the direction of a speech than as a spoken language that is written down (Crystal, 2006:31,51). This interest of netspeak comes from its salient features which are taken from one of its situational manifestations. These manifestations are begun to be used outside of the situation of CMC even though the medium has become available to most people. So, the influence of netspeak affects vocabulary with graphology in some written varieties and everyday conversations (ibid:20-21). Thurlow et al. (2004:123-26) declare that netspeak is the social variable that invariably shapes online interaction and the best place to recognize netspeak on the internet, is clearly in the channels of synchronous communication such as IM, chat, and MUDs. They also add that netspeak describes linguistic forms that are used on the internet and the ways people use language in online conversations (ibid:249).

3. Pragmatic Aspects of Netspeak

Language of the internet can be viewed as a novel medium combining spoken, written and electronic properties (Crystal, 2006:52). Domains of netspeak differ in the degree of synchronicity of the message such as "protection, reception and response". So, this synchronicity leads some scholars like Herring (1999) and Werry (1996) to observe that interaction in netspeak though of its textual nature, it is a kind of conversation (Markman, 2013:539).

Levinson (1983:284) (cited in Markman,2013: 539) tells that "conversation is clearly the prototypical type of language use" and this will provide insight into the most pragmatic phenomenon. So, the properties of the medium in text-based conversation that may alter the pragmatic phenomenon are manifested and some terms will lose their referents when visual cues are absent.

3.1 Cooperative Principle

Grice considers communication as a restriction to what is called cooperative principle. Participants negotiate meaning in a given context in the process of communication. He (1975) proposes that participants should follow the cooperation in negotiating meaning to achieve the communicative goal. Grice's logic of conversation focuses on the idea that participants are rational factors and they should obey the principle of rationality which is called "cooperative principle" which is formulated as follows: "Make your conversational contribution as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted direction or purpose of the talk exchange in which you are engaged" (Grice, 1975:45-6).

However, ''the co-operative principle enables one participant in a conversation to communicate on the assumption that the other participant is being co-operative" (Leech, 1983: 82). Its function is to regulate what is said so that it contributes to some discoursal goals (ibid). Grice introduces the co-operative principle and its maxims to explain the mechanics by which people interpret conversation implicature in "logic and conversation". Grice also claims that in conversational interaction, participants work on the assumption that a certain set of rules is in operation unless they receive indications to the contrary (Thomas, 1995:61-62).

To achieve the cooperative principle or successful communication, the speaker has to follow the maxims of conversation. These maxims are:

1. The maxim of quantity: Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange. Don't make your contribution more informative than is required.
2. The maxim of quality: Do not say what you believe to be false. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
3. The maxim of relevance (Relation): Make your contribution relevant (be relevant).
4. The maxim of manner: Avoid obscurity of expression. Avoid ambiguity. Be brief, and be orderly.

Crystal (2006:46) gives chatgroups as an example of netspeak that resembles oral communication. He mentions that chatgroups conversations are time-bound, which is a character of real life conversations. Paolillo&Zelenkauskaite (2013:111) mention that in chatgroups, the textual nature of information is conveyed non-verbally for example, facial expression, intonation and proxemics have to be represented as a text. So, in chat, paralinguistic features such as the repetition of letters for emphasis for example "nooooo!", emoticons such as: "J", punctuation marks like "hey!!!!!" and abbreviations such as: "lol" 'laugh out loud' are used to convey the message non-verbally. Chat communication encourages informal, spontaneous communication. Its informal structure and the requirements for interaction, and the variety of its content and context make chat pragmatically complex (ibid). All these informal features draw inferences among users about the nature of these linguistic features (Baron, 2013:124).

So, to apply Grice's maxims on the internet situations, Crystal (2006:55-61) tells that when we see an internet utterance, we do not know how to take it because we do not know what set of conversational principles it obeys. For example:

a- The maxim of quality is undermined two circumstances: "spoofing" which is messages whose origin is suspect, and "trolling" which is the messages that are sent to cause irritation to others.
b- The maxim of quantity is also undermined netspeak situations in the extreme of "lurking" which is "a refusal to communicate" and "flaming" which is aggressive messages that are related to a specific topic and directed at an individual recipient seems more infraction to the maxim of manner than quantity.
c- The maxim of manner is also challenged in some internet situations "brevity is recognized in many netspeak interactions in terms of sentence length, the number of sentences in a turn or the amount of text on a screen". There are several signs of brevity in many situations where the principle is honoured more in the breach than observance (ibid:61).
d- The maxim of relevance is also violated in some situations, in that the internet exchange may have a purpose for example, a search for information or the desire to score points in a fantasy game. But in some cases, the purpose of the exchange like in some chatgroups cannot be determined, there is no subject-matter or it can be irrelevant (ibid:61).

In synchronous chatgroups, the basic challenge is that all participants are speaking at once which makes a transcript of an interaction difficult to follow. Typing imposes a strong pressure on the sender to be selective in what is said particularly when someone is not very fast or competent typist. So, selected expressions may lead to all types of ambiguity (ibid:61).

3.2 Flouting a maxim

During the talk exchange, participants do not always follow these maxims. They may flout, violate or opt out a maxim (Grice, 1975:49). If a speaker flouts a maxim, the utterance conveys a conversational implicature or an implied meaning, while a hearer works out of conversational implicatures by taking into account the literal meaning of an utterance, the co-operative principle with its maxims and the contextual factors of the communicative event (Brown and Yule, 1983:32-33).

A flout happens when a speaker fails to observe a maxim of what is said. In this case, the implicature is generated intentinally. So, flouting a maxim causes misleading or deceiving to the hearer and the hearer will look for a meaning which differs from the experssed meaning (Thomas, 1995:65). A speaker flouts the maxim of quantity by giving less or more information than is required. The maxim of quality flouts when the speaker mentions something false in which he/she lacks evidence. The maxim of relation flouts when the response is irrelevant to the topic. The maxim of manner flouts by giving incomplete or ambiguous information (ibid:65-72).

3.3 Conversational Analysis

According to Cameron (2001:87) and Hutchby (2001:55) conversational analysis is a study of talk in interaction or the systematic anaysis of the types of talk produced in everyday situations of social interaction. So, many theoretical studies have examined conversation as an interaction between individuals with conversation occurred as spoken communication. Hutchby (2001:59) argues that CA seeks to focus on the behavioural as opposed to cognitive or internal elements of talk in interaction. Nunamaker et al. (1993:24) declare that there is one primary feature of conversation which is fully interactive at least two individuals must participate in it and those individuals exchange messages in a real time. So, individuals take turns in exchanging these messages so that conversation is a sequential activitiy.

Sacks et al. (1974) as cited in Hutchby (2001:60) argue that there are three basic facts about conversation: turn taking occurs, one participant tends to talk at time and turns are taken with as little gap or overlap between them as possible. So, CA research aims to investigate how the technical aspects of turn taking are structured, socially organized resources by which individuals perform and arrange activities through talk-in-interaction. Conversation is treated as a vehicle for social action and as the vital implies by which social organization in individual interactions is developed and sustained (ibid:65). CA has strong links with pragmatics and social psychology and it adopts a different view on the nature and relevance of goals and strategies in everyday communication (ibid:70). CA is embedded with the theory of "turn-taking" and other aspects like "adjacency pairs" that provide a framework on which conversatinal analysts may rely (Sacks et al., 1978:735).

Tudini (2010:5) mentions that online chat interaction is considered as a textual form of socially oriented, naturally occurring talk that tends itself to the same kinds of analyses that have been applied to face-to-face talk. Though it is a written form of communication, chat shares many features with spoken interaction such as synchronous communication. So, in analyzing chat, no transcription of conversations is required as individuals collaborate and control their own written production of conversations.

Thus, Crystal (2006:32-33) proposes some differences between Netspeak and face-to-face conversation. First, is a function of the technology_ the lack of simultaneous feedback and messages sent via a computer are complete and unidirectional. There is no way that a recipient can react to the messages while it is being typed and there is no way for a participant to get a sense of how successful a message is and there is no technical way of allowing the receiver to send the electronic equivalent or any other audio-visual reactions which play a role in face-to-face interaction. So, messages cannot overlap. Second, it also results from the technology which is the rhythm of the internet interaction, is very slower than in speech situation and disallows some of conversation's most salient properties.

3.4 Turn taking

Conversation is characterized by turn-taking in that one participant (A) talks and stops; another participant (B) starts and tops, and so on (Levinson, 1983:296). Sacks et al. (1974, 1978), cited in (Levinson, 1983:297), claim that the mechansim that governs turn-taking is a set of rules with ordered options that operates on a turn-by-turn basis and can be called "a local management system". One way about looking at these rules is a sharing device, operating over a scarce resource and an economy. This way is called "control of the floor". The allocational system requires minimal units which are the units that construct turns in conversation. These units are detemined by different features of linguistic surface structure, they are syntactic units such as "sentences, clauses, phrases" (ibid). A speaker will initiate in one of these turn-construction units. The end of such a unit constitutes a point at which speakers may change, it is a transition relevance place "TRP". At a TRP the rules that govern the transition of speakers then come into play which does not mean that speakers will change at that point but they may do so (ibid).

Crystal (2006:20) argues that netspeak is characterized by unique features, one of these features is turn-taking. Jones et al. (2011:28) define utterance as an individual message sent with a stroke of the return key. They also define turn as a series of uninterrupted utterance by one speaker. Jenks (2014:52) mentions that turn-taking studies possess two analytic objectives: to understand the communicative features of online platform and to compare these features with face-to-face communication. Crystal (2006:151) says that short responses are one of the features of netspeak which differ from face-to-face conversation.

Baron (2008:48) argues that in conversational analysis, a 'turn' is the language used by a speaker while he/she holds the floor before ceding it or being interrupted. That turn may consist of one sentence, many sentences or just a sentence fragment such as 'Hmm'.

Vandergiff (2010:241) mentions that the turn-taking system is different from face-to-face interaction for example, in FTF interaction an utterance produced after a request will be interpreted as a response to the request, i.e. a denial or a grant. In synchronous CMC, this interpretation may be wrong because participants don't have as much control over the sequencing of utterance as in FTF.

On one hand, Crystal (2006:37) tells that many issues, such as turn-taking, make netspeak interaction differs from conversational speech and netspeak is unlike speech with respect to the formal properties of the medium that becomes difficult for participants to live up to the recommendation that they can write as they talk. On the other hand, Benwell&Stokoe (2006:257-59) mention that turn-taking in netspeak is different from face to face conversations. The notion of turn-taking is compromised by the absence of non-textual features associated with face-to-face such as: falling intonation signally the end of a turn. The conversational coherence thought to be lacking in CMC and it is compensated by a variety of creative means. In certain forms of CMC, responses to a turn may be multiple and simultaneous and making a topic difficult to follow. While in real time conversational turn-taking, multiple responses get neglected to leave one participant speaking in the clear. So, netspeak is conventionally incoherent in terms of turn-taking (overlapping, exchanges, disrupted adjacency and topic decay) and users either adapt to or exploit these deficiencies.

3.5 Adjacency pairs

Adjacency pairs ae the type of paired utterances which are prototypical such as greeting-greeting, question-answer, offer-acceptance, apology-minimization, etc. Adjacency pairs are inter-related with turn-taking system as techinques for selecting a next speaker (Levinson, 1983:303). Couthard (1985:69) describes adjacency pairs as the basic structural units in conversation because they are used for opening and closing conversation, and because they operate turn-taking system in that a speaker produces the first part of utterance and the second part is being expected.

Adjacency pairs can be characterized by certain features:

1- It is composed of two turns.
2- By different speakers
3- Adjacently ordered one after the other.
4- These two ordered pairs are differentiated into first pair parts which are utterance kinds such as question, request, invitation, offer, announcement, etc. These types initiate some exchange, and second pair parts of utterance are reposive to the action of a prior turn such as answer, accept, grant, reject, agree/disagree, decline, acknowledge, etc.


Excerpt out of 26 pages


Conversational Exchange in English Chat Groups. Pragmatic Aspects and Difficulties of Netspeak
University of Babylon  (College of Education for Human Sciences)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Pragmatics, Internet Language, Netspeak, Online Chat Groups
Quote paper
Salih Mahdi Adai Al-Mamoory (Author)Abdul-Haq Abdul-Kareem Abdullah Al-Sahlani (Author), 2021, Conversational Exchange in English Chat Groups. Pragmatic Aspects and Difficulties of Netspeak, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Conversational Exchange in English Chat Groups. Pragmatic Aspects and Difficulties of Netspeak

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free