Text message analysis
This data was taken out of the specimen paper. Read it and then we can answer some questions on it.
Language and Technology – Text I
The text messages below were copied from the mobile phone of Lola, aged thirteen, over a single day. Natalie and Sarah are school friends and Kate is Lola’s Aunt who works in a clothing store.
NATALIE (to Lola) Hi L, hw r u? Wat did u put in ur xmas card 2 ur French prson? I ant dne it yet oops! Sofa I av salut ca va n that is it how do u say mery xmas? Tb lv n
LOLA (to Natalie) Lol, thatís so weird, was jst thinking bout tht when u txtd!! I havnt done it either, u wanna go on msn n do it 2getha ther? ñ Lx ps. Merry xmas is joyeux noel!
NATALIE (to Lola) Kk, am like on already wel nearly!
KATE (to Lola) hav asked girls at work 2 look after you! Or Ö Iím back in wed ñ K x
LOLA (to Kate) Thank u! We r goin ther now! L x 🙂
SARAH (to Lola) Do u av maroon 5’s album? Luv s XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx
LOLA (to Sarah) Sure do! Do u wanna watch jackass the movie n luv actually 2moz? Lx
SARAH (to Lola) Not lov act. But jackass ya! Cu 2moz! Can we watch stepford wives aswel?! Luv s xx
LOLA (to Sarah) Totally! Y not jst a quick pop in2 town 4 pizza or starbucks ñ i donít hav much money left! Then we can chil @ mine n watch movies 4 ages!! L x
SARAH (to Lola) I don’t av any money so shall we just eat at ur place? i’ll cum round at like 4.30pm luv s xx
Source: Private data
- What is the purpose of each exchange? Have the different purposes affected the way texters communicate?
The purpose of all three text strings differs. All three exchanges have a blend of transactional and interactional purposes. The second one between Lola and her aunty is the most transactional. It is clear, direct and has a specific purpose of informing. From the very first lexical item we can gather the purpose ‘hav asked’. The lack of phatic talk makes this clear too. The first one between Lola and Natalie, her school friend is the most interactional. Phatic talk is prominent e.g. ‘hw r u’. However, like the last exchange, the conversation is a hybrid containing transactional elements such as ‘ Wat did u put in…’.
- In each exchange, Lola texts a different recipient. Does this difference affect the language and style of her texts?
The difference does affect the language and style of the way she responds. For instance, when she texts her aunty, whom I presume is older, the text seems more formal in terms of grammatical structure e.g. ‘Thank u!’. Conversely, when she texts her friends we see more alternative styles of language and grammar e.g. ‘Y not jst a pop in2 town 4 pizza…’.
- What politeness features are present?
In all text exchanges we can see politeness employed. In some e.g. exchange two we see politeness markers being employed to do this job e.g. ‘Thank u!’. However, exchange one uses phatic token to denote this politeness e.g. ‘Hi L, Hw r u?’. This phatic token protects Lola’s negative face when she immediately makes her request (xmas card), revealing the transactional nature of the message. Exchange three on the other hand utilizes positive politeness features as a way of saving face. For example, when Sara initially sends the text, she starts it with a question (revealing transactional nature of message) and then appeals to Lola’s positive face by showing her appreciation for her with a polite and personal sign off ‘Luv s XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx’.
- How do the text messages resemble (i) speech (ii) writing?
- The exchanges presented are very similar to spoken language. For example, Sarah uses fillers e.g. ‘at like 4.30pm’ which is a common feature of speech. She has done this to make her text sound more informal. It might be that she is just writing every word that come to her mind and as ‘like’ would have been a common feature of spoken language she wrote that down too. However, it could also be politeness strategy – a way of mitigating the transactional nature of the text and making it sound interactional.
- However, the exchanges seem to be punctuated correctly, making them similar to written language. For example, ‘Lol, that’s so weird,…’.These commas have been used to indicate a subordinate clause. In this particular text it helps create a particular voice or persona. For example, if it was not written Lola would come across as happy and excited. Text messaging technology use some written language devices to help create a particular voce and make the text distinctive.
- Do the texters establish a shared context, or do they assume one?
In the first two sets of messages the texts assume a shared space. We can see this because in the first one they are talking about some kind of French homework and in the second one they are talking discussing about confirming some sort of plan. They assume this shared context because there aren’t explicit details yet they seem to understand what each other are texting hence they are able to respond.
In the third one, the texter establish a shared context. Hence, why the exchange is longer. The shared context is established around the second text where Lola and Sarah begin making plans. The technology has helped make the shared context quickly established. A lot of information is crammed into one text. For example, in the third exchange from Sarah four separate points are expressed.
- What typical features of textspeak occur here (other than those you have already mentioned)?
In all three exchanges, we can see a lot of textspeak being utilized. The most common is vowel omission e.g. ‘luv’, probably because as well as making texts faster, it can be understood by many more people than say initialism. Initialism requires previous knowledge/experience of textspeak.
In exchange two when Lola talks to her aunty we chooses to use vowel omission as opposed to initialism e.g. ‘ther’. Homophonic representation is similar to vowel omission in that previous experience is not really required to work out what the person has written e.g. In Lola’s text to her aunty she says ‘r’ instead of ‘are’. Similarly variant spelling is present e.g. ‘wel’ (1st exchange) ‘goin’ (2nd exchange) and ‘cum’ (3rd exchange).
Furthermore, phonetic spelling and homophonic spelling is used. Her aunty too uses this, demonstrating the universality of this textspeak e.g. ‘2’. It also shows that even a transactional conversation is affected by technology!
- How do Lola’s text messages help to establish her identity? (Does she express her personality in her texting?)
Lola’s persona and personality are revealed through texting. For example, we get the impression she is a poplar and sociable person because when she texts she signs off in a polite way by the use of symbols such as ‘x’ and acronyms like ‘ly’. Exclamation marks in the context she has used them in make her texts dynamic and come out to life. They represent prosodic features which help the recipient hear a “voice”. This helps her communicate her identity.