The genre "Netspeak". A contribution of the Internet for English as a World Language

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012
12 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 The aim of the paper

2. The status of English on the Internet today

3.1 A definition ofNetspeakand its distinctive features
3.2Netspeakas a genre within a community of practice

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

‘Technology always changes a language. When printing came in in the fourteen hundreds, it changed the language. New styles developed, new spellings, new punctuation systems and so on. When the telephone came in in the nineteenth century, it changed the language. New patterns of dialogue came into being. (…) And when the internet came into being it changed the language, but nobody I think ever expected the language to be so diversified as a result of the internet; simply because nobody was able to predict exactly how many different technological variations that there were going to be of electronically mediated communication. I mean just think: There’s the world wide web, there’s e-mail, there’s chat-rooms, there’s virtual worlds (…), there’s blogging, there’s instant messaging, there’s social networking sites now, like Youtube and Facebook, there’s twittering, there’s mobile phone texting(…). Now each one of these new technologies or new opportunities of communication produces a new kind oflanguage. In the case of English a new style of English. (…)’(Chrystal 2010)

1.1 The aim of the paper

The present paper puts a focus on the contribution of the Internet genreNetspeakfor the English language. In the context of English as a global language the paper firstly examines the status of the English language on the World Wide Web today for both native speakers (NS) and non-native speakers (NNS) and tries to describe in which ways these two groups use English to perform a wide range of communicative functions. Furthermore, the paper describes the relatively new termNetspeakand provides an overview of some distinctive linguistic features and patterns of this specific genre of ‘electronically mediated communication’(Chrystal 2010). In additionNetspeakis defined as a genre and the present paper gives explanations why it can be considered to be closely connected to the concept ofcommunity of practice.

Finally the educational implications ofNetspeakfor English Language Teaching (ELT) will be discussed together with a proposal for a teaching unit aboutNetspeak.

2. The status of English on the Internet today

In the beginning of the Internet, in 1996, over eighty percent of its users were L1 English speakers and the percentage of web pages in English was equally high. More than a decade later, in 2005, the proportion of English L1 Internet users decreased to thirty-two percent (Graddol 2006: 45). This trend is due to the fact that more NNS of English use the Internet and major uses such as e-commerce, for instance Amazon or ebay, work mainly on national levels. Nevertheless, the total proportion of English used on the Internet among both NS and NNS is still the highest (Chrystal 2011: 79).[1]

Alongside the increasing popularity of the Internet several Internet situations have emerged as a consequence. They can be subdivided into four categories (Hažiahmetovi-Jurida 2006: 196)

1. electronic mail (e-mail)
2. chat groups
3. virtual worlds
4. World Wide Web

Both chat groups and virtual worlds, including Massively-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Games (MMORPG) in particular, have fostered the development of a new genre of the English language which is calledNetspeak: A new manifestation of English as a global language, a quick tool for communication via the Internet that is used daily by millions of (primarily younger) NS and NNS of English to communicate with each other.

3. Netspeak

3.1 A definition of Netspeak and its distinctive features

Netspeakprimarily takes places in synchronous internet situations (Thurlow 2001: 288) like chatting or during other real time events like Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games for example. As one has to interact very quickly, such situations are time-governed and demand immediate responses from the participants in the conversation. For this reason there exist pre-constructed sets of ‘speech acts’ like the following (Chrystal 2006: 32, 38):

Plate raises his hand and shouts...

Fork sighs loudly...

Plate says ‘Nope’


<Hoppy giggles quietly to himself>

<Jake squeals insistently>

<Henry eyes Jane warily>

In addition to these sets,Netspeakshares several other linguistic features which serve to meet the demand of interacting quickly, spontaneously, and often creatively like the following examples show (taken from netlingo[2], Thurlow 2001 and Chrystal 2006):

1. Letters, numbers and symbols that serve as

homophoneslike inRU...[instead of and besides from] ‘Are you...’,@for ‘at’,YforWhy?’, acronymslike inCMIW‘Correct me if I am wrong’,BRBfor ‘Be right back’ a mixture of bothlike inCYL8Rfor ‘See you later’

2. Paralinguistic restitution: This term is closely related toNetspeak.It tries to overcome the boundaries of written discourse and to incorporate linguistic features that are normally only shared in verbal discourse including for example ‘loudness (stress), speed, rhythm, pause, and tone of voice’ (Chrystal 2006: 37).Netspeakhas various kinds of conventionalized techniques to converge to verbal speech by using the diversity of a computer keyboard.


[1]also Cf., Retrieved March 01, 2012.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


The genre "Netspeak". A contribution of the Internet for English as a World Language
University of Erfurt  (Philosophische Fakultät Institut für Anglistik)
English as a World Language
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
539 KB
netspeak, internet, english, world, language
Quote paper
Maximilian Mattes (Author), 2012, The genre "Netspeak". A contribution of the Internet for English as a World Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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