Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Asciiized chat"

It's a busy time of year here; lots of papers to grade, in fact, I fall asleep grading most nights, even on weekends. So, in general, no time for things I love: World Series, fall colors, children's soccer, hallowe'en costurme, professional interests (see TESOL presentations, below on template). But late at night, Friday, I found something really interesting.

I have long noticed my Saudi and Yemeni students using Arabic chat in English letters, including some numbers such as 3 and 5; the language is definitely Arabic, but because of the large number of English letters it is almost readable at our end. At first I understood this to be because of the lack of Arabic-script functionality at one end or the other, but that is clearly gone now; almost all computers can write the Arabic script. Still, this "3/5" chat continues...why? I was about to aske a former student on Friday before I left, but never got to it; too busy.

Late at night, however, I found this:

Palfreyman, D. and al Khalil, M. (2003, Nov.). "A Funky Language for Teenzz to Use": Representing Gulf Arabic in Instant Messaging. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 9 (1). Accessed 10-08.

This article not only makes an interesting linguistic analysis of what's going on- it's based on observations of mostly women in UAE- but it also makes some interesting claims. The most interesting of these, I am unable to find at the moment, but had to do with Gulf Arabic dialect being not heavily recorded in many other places besides Ascii-ized Arabic.

I had had many questions about this language before going home, but now have a number more; some of the original ones have been answered. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of pure linguistic study of these languages, although what there is, namely this article, is not bad. It's not that linguists are unable or unwilling to analyze what's happening. It's more that it's happening so quickly that busy, underfunded linguists (often fighting for their own departmental survival) may not have time to really analyze it.

I plan to learn a little more about this language- given, first, that I have a lot of sources directly near me- all I have to do is ask them. Its nature has never been a secret.

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