Scholarly article on topic 'Playfulness and Creativity: A Look at Language use Online in Malaysia'

Playfulness and Creativity: A Look at Language use Online in Malaysia Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Zaemah Abdul Kadir, Hayati Idris, Sharifah Shahnaz Syed Husain

Abstract The emergence of the internet has created a popular avenue for discussion of various issues. One recent internet phenomenon involves the new web technologies or popularly known as social media. These new web technologies have opened up extraordinary avenues for rich human online interaction. The language phenomenon in online communication continues to cause vital linguistic interest as new communication technologies not only generate new forms and uses of language but also new forms of literacy which are related to the introduction and uses of new technologies. This research investigated the language used by Malaysians in their online communication particularly on two different platforms: Facebook and online discussion forums. In particular, it examined the types of homophones, abbreviations and emoticons that appear on both platforms.

Academic research paper on topic "Playfulness and Creativity: A Look at Language use Online in Malaysia"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 65 (2012) 404 - 409

International Congress on Interdisciplinary Business and Social Science 2012

(ICIBSoS 2012)

Playfulness and creativity: A Look at language use

online in Malaysia

Zaemah Abdul Kadir, Hayati Idris, Sharifah Shahnaz Syed Husain

Academy of Language Studies, MARA University of Technology, 40450 Shah Alam, Selangor,Malaysia English Department, Hulu Selangor Commnity College, 44300 Batang Kali, Selangor, Malaysia _Academy of Language Studies, MARA University of Technology, 40450 Shah Alam, Selangor,Malaysia1_

Abstract

The emergence of the internet has created a popular avenue for discussion of various issues. One recent internet phenomenon involves the new web technologies or popularly known as social media. These new web technologies have opened up extraordinary avenues for rich human online interaction. The language phenomenon in online communication continues to cause vital linguistic interest as new communication technologies not only generate new forms and uses of language but also new forms of literacy which are related to the introduction and uses of new technologies. This research investigated the language used by Malaysians in their online communication particularly on two different platforms: Facebook and online discussion forums. In particular, it examined the types of homophones, abbreviations and emoticons that appear on both platforms.

© 2012 The Authors.Published b yEls evier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of JIBES University, Jakarta

Facebook; online discussion forums; computer-mediated communication; linguistic features 1. Introduction

The emergence of the internet has created a popular avenue for discussion of various issues. One recent internet phenomenon involves the new web technologies or popularly known as social media. These new web technologies have opened up extraordinary avenues for rich human online interaction. Social network sites (SNS) is an example of one of these new technologies. It is a new platform for online communication that has created exceptional ground for online discourse.SNS, which can be broadly defined as internet or mobile device-based social spaces, is designed to facilitate communication, collaboration and content sharing across networks of contacts (Cachia, 2008). As a new branch of

* Corresponding author. Tel.:0333932275. E-mail address: zaemah@salam.uitm.edu.my.

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of JIBES University, Jakarta

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.11.141

computer-mediated communication (CMC), SNS can be an important ground to express personal identities (Boyd and Heer, 2006) and are very much integrated into the lives of its users (Kim and Yun, 2007). The language phenomenon in online communication continues to cause vital linguistic interest (Boyd and Ellison, 2007) as new communication technologies not only generate new forms and uses of language but also new forms of literacy which are related to the introduction and uses of new technologies (Bodomo, 2009). This research investigated the language used by Malaysians in their online communication particularly on two different platforms: Facebook and online discussion forums. In particular, it examined the types of homophones, abbreviations and emoticons that appear on both platforms.

2. Facebook and online discussion forums

FB, which was launched on February 4, 2004, represents the phenomenal growth of social network sites. The popularity of FB has increased tremendously in the last few years. It has become phenomenal because of its huge number of users. People have realized FB is an influential medium for sharing and dissemination of information. This can be seen in how now FB is used in entertainment, business and politics and in asserting ones ' beliefs among others. FB cannot be seen as valueless or be taken lightly as it is widely used. Furthermore, interest in FB is a recent wave of scholarly research and study related to FB only began in late 2006 (Baron, 2008). It offers vast areas of research interest as scholars have little understanding of the nature of online discourse in this new social space.

In addition, Fb also provides users with a profile space, applications for uploading content such as photos, music, and video, applications for sending messages in various forms and the opportunity to make connections with other people. The ability to make connections with others or "friends" is the core functionality of a social network site (Baron, 2008). Other applications include opportunities for communication, the forming of groups, hosting of content and small applications.

Online discussion forum, a type of computer-mediated communication, provides a platform for users to interact with one another-by sharing ideas, knowledge, and opinions (Hussin, 2009). It is interesting to note that anyone can set up a web forum and it is normally connected to a particular website. However, some forums required users to register before they can read and post messages. Kear (2011) states that the main features of a discussion forum are means of posting messages, a repository for storing them, and an interface for navigating through the threads of messages and replies

Online discussion forum is also a type of asynchronous setting of communication whereby the sender can leave and expect responses to his/her messages. The users are allowed not only discuss and share information, but also exchange ideas and opinions. Forums are divided into three different components which actually depend on the display format; non-threaded, semi-threaded and fully-threaded. The non-threaded forum function which is similar to notice bulletin board, does not allow discussion or reply to messages. The messages are normally displayed in chronological order. In the semi-threaded online discussion forums, the users are able to reply to the initial messages and the replied messages will then line up under one another below the initial message which is normally in chronological with the most recent messages display below or vice-versa. Finally, the fully threaded online discussion forum which is similar to semi-threaded, enable other users to reply to the initial messages. However, users in fully-threaded discussion forums are allowed to response to the replies of the initial. The messages sent later on can be developed into a string of discourse. This format is considered to be the closest to face-to face discussion.

Comments or postings written on FB are posted on the 'super wall ' similar to message board. These comments can be seen and read by other members within the member's network or list of friends. These comments are mostly cheerful, humorous or sometimes just plain comments on any other general situation or about a photo posted by the member. Bodomo (2009) asserts that the language used on FB

shares many of the characteristics of SMS language, which include ghetto-style lexicon, simplified spelling and acronym. Web-based SNS such as FB also supports limited mobile interactions (Barasa, 2010). The question of how technologies are affecting language and language change continues to be investigated especially on a new online platform such as FB. The language phenomenon in online communication continues to generate new forms and uses of language which cause linguistic curiosity. The areas of research interest include pronunciation, capitalization and spelling (Crystal, 2006) or also categorized as typography, orthography and neologisms (Danet and Herring, 2009). These developments shown in the written form via computer bring along with them both positive and negative concerns. The phenomenon of using typography, orthography and neologisms in computer-mediated communication has also gained popularity among researchers in Malaysia (Poh, Ung and Tan, 2011; Kadir, Maros and Hamid, 2012). Research has been conducted on the linguistic features in messages sent in emails and online discussion forums.

Poh et al. (2011) conducted a study on 40 university students (SEGi University College, Universiti Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Universiti Putra Malaysia) on their emails and SMS. Eighty emails and SMSs were analyzed focusing on the characteristics of the emails and common text devices used by the participants. Quantitative content analysis was employed for data analysis. Some of the common features found in SMSs written by the participants included improper use of abbreviations which recorded the highest number of occurrences. Other features included homophones (136 times), emoticons (40 times), punctuation errors (106 times), capitalization errors (100 times), used of mixed languages (8 times) and colloquialism (63 times).

In Malaysia, Kadir, Maros and Hamid (2012) conducted a research on the linguistic features used in online discussion forums among the e-distance learning students in one of the public universities in Malaysia. The corpus was taken from posting messages sent by the students to their friends who were taking the same course. It was found that the students used linguistic features such as homophones, eccentric spelling, capital letters, written out laughter, emoticons and clippings when communicating with their friends. Other linguistic feature that was found interesting was the alternation of Malay and English languages in the messages sent. The students code-switched for various purposes such as to mark a specific terminology, to emphasize and clarify messages and also for formulaic discourse purposes.

3. Methodology

This study employed content analysis on FB and online discussion forum postings. A total of 150 FB postings were analyzed for the language features. The data collected were postings made in December 2010. The primary source of data was the postings and comments on the researcher's FB profile, individual's postings and comments on their FB walls. The data was collected in such a manner as the aim of this study was to look at the language features used by any FB users of different background, social upbringing, social status, age or academic standing. The researcher's own personal account was selected as it provided the researcher an authentic FB setting and access to comments made by participants who represent Malaysians from all walks of life.

On the other hand, a total of 110 messages were collected from the Diploma of Business Management students from July 16 2009 till Oct 27 2009. This program provides the students with their own online discussion forum platforms in order to discuss academic and non academic matters with their fellow friends and learning facilitators. The messages sent by the students were mainly about classes, exams, documentation, assignments to be submitted and rarely about everyday life. The e-learning mode requires the students to only attend seminar four or five times per semester, therefore, they have to communicate online with their friends and learning instructors most of the time. Although there were no specific amount of postings or messages for them to send in the online forums, it was considered

important part in the syllabus as postings sent were given marks for participation. The data analyzed were mainly guided by Danet (2001) general characterization of digital discourse.

Findings

All The common language features and the number of occurrence for each category are presented in table 2 below

Table 1. Common Language Features on Facebook

Categories Target words/Expressions

Letter homophones Babeh/babe/beb Baby

u You nw Now

d/de the fav favourite

w with gonna Going to

r are boyfren Boy friend

n and galfren Girl friend

Ur your Dis this

dayz Days tenkiu Thank you

alwayz always tqvm Thank you very much

Digit homophones eppy bday Happy birthday

2 to Emoticon

4 for :D Laughing/big grin

Abbreviations :))) Smiley/happy face

Esp Especially :) Smiley/happy face

Coz/ bcoz Because ;-) wink

Kinda Kind of :-) Smiley/happy face

luv Love A A Normal laugh

wanna Want to :'( Crying

TABLE 2. Common Language Features on online discussion forum

Categories Target words/Expressions Categories Target words/Expressions

Letter homophones Digit homophones

u You 2 to

n and 4 for

Emoticon

Abbreviations Smiling

mdm madam — Laughing/big grin

bcoz Because 'S; Crying

gonna Going to Q3 wink

tq Thank you © happy face

4. Discussion

Similar to the study conducted by Poh et al (2011), it was found that there were similarities and differences in the language features used by the users. Users of both medium of interactions included

homophones, abbreviations and emoticons in their posting messages.

5.1 Homophones

Homophones were used to represent words because of their similar sounds. Single letter homophones such as "r", 'V, "w", "n", were found to be used in both mediums. In both interaction platforms, the letter "u" was most widely used expression as compared to other type of letter homophones. Meanwhile, the digit homophones such as "2" and "4" were also used in their messages. The use of letters and digit homophones in this study is as following:

A: i'm syamsudin ...u and all friends can call me syam..i'm new student and we in same group too... i hope we can help each others in class and this iclass..see u in first class soon..bye

Facebook

L: Remember u r not alone Dear!!!

J: Thanks Elies .. Begins w new roller coaster work chapter again..

5.2 Abbreviations Forums

M: But sorry...sometimes i'm not avail to answer your call or when you buzz bcoz I'm quite busy when the office hour.

B: Feel free to contact me and really hope that we gonna help each other.

Facebook

T: Gonna go home tomorrow but how come the bags still 'quite spacious'? just think "I wanna walk, run, jump..."

S: Some of the strategies employed to shorten words were vowel omissions, acronyms and initializations. These features were also used by the participants. Despite being able to be careful with messages posted on FB and forums, abbreviation was still common. This is probably because users want to save time as proposed by the maxim of brevity and speed in texting (Thurlow, 2003).

6.3 Emoticons Forums

M: Thanks to all my friend's... I hope we will help each other in future..

N: Have fun in getting to know each other izi)

Facebook

L: Happiness....:)))

K: A Millionaires First Love kinda sad and I wish I could have a guy like Jae Kyung ;'(

The use of emoticons was another common and popular feature on both platforms. The FB users were found to use mostly eastern emoticons such as :))), :-), ;'( . However, none of the eastern emoticons was used by users in the online forum. These symbols were used to convey feelings to another person in order to overcome the lack of paralinguistic feature used in verbal communication. In computer-mediated communication, the non-alphabetic symbols such as (: ), (-) and ()) are sometimes converted into the western emoticons because it has already been pre-formatted.

5. Conclusion

The study describes the creative ways users do when communicating online with their friends. However, FB users tend to be informal when posting their messages as compared to the forum users. This may be due to the fact the online discussion users were students of higher learning and the platform used was also designed for academic purposes. Both types of communication show the existence of homophones, abbreviation and emoticons for effective communication although the frequency of these features is higher in FB. The study also shows that online users use creative ways of relaying their messages in order to get responses and at the same time they know that their intended messages are relayed and understood. In addition, instead of hampering communication, their creativity online stimulates communication and make it interesting for others to read and participate in their threads.

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