Conversational Analysis of Chat Room Talk PHD thesis by Dr. Terrell Neuage  University of South Australia National Library of Australia. THESIS COMPLETE .pdf  / or

THESIShome ~ Abstract.html/pdf ~ Glossary.html/pdfIntroduction.html/pdf  ~ methodology.html/pdf  ~ literature review.html/pdfCase Study 1.html/pdf~ 2.html/pdf~ 3.html/pdf~  4.html/pdf~ 5.html/pdf~  6.html/pdf~  7.html/pdf~ discussion.html/pdf  ~ conclusion.html~ postscipt.html/pdf~ O*D*A*M.html/pdf~ Bibliography.html/pdf~  911~ thesis-complete.htm/~ Terrell Neuage Home Appendixes  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.  DATA ~ Case Study   1 ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4 ~ 5 ~ 6 ~ 7 ~ These links are from early notes and not the final edits which are in the published version available at the University of South Australia only. Not all links are active due to changing domains. Home page see

Chapter 6 Conclusion and further research 

Wednesday, 29 May 2002 8:24 PM 5,428

Chapter 6 Conclusion and further research.... 5



My conclusion to this thesis is in three sections as I have found that this work had three general themes that were developed during the course of my research. Firstly, I looked at several linguistic theories which I highlighted as being of possible use in the establishment of an Online Discourse Analysis Method. Secondly, I posed several questions on electronic conversation at the beginning of this thesis (See 1.2)  and in each case study, of which there are seven, I suggested questions which were pertinent to the particular case study. And thirdly, my conclusion to this study is that I have been researching a new textual genre which may be of an historical significance.

I made several hypothesis at the beginning of this thesis and I have used these hypothesis as a structure for my thesis and to centre my questions which would help to establish an Online Discourse Analysis Method and to verify chatroom genres. My three hypothesis are that chatrooms are a new genre of writing and communicating style, that people create a different ‘textual self’ for each chat room environment they are in and that chatroom ‘talk’ does not differs from natural conversation.

6.1 ODAM – theories on the way to ODAM

My overall strategy in the development of this thesis was to look at several theories of conversational analysis and apply a theoretical framework to individual chatrooms. I took the six theories of ‘Reading-Response’, ‘Computer-Mediated Communication’, ‘Semiotic Analysis’, ‘Speech Act’, ‘Discourse Analysis’ and ‘Conversational Analysis’ theory as well as examining several schools of linguistics and modified them so as to have a method to look at conversation in a chatroom.

Possessing a language is the quintessentially human trait (Pinker 2002, Lieberman, P. 1984 Piaget, J. 1926).  The Internet chatroom, in its universality, may be part of the process of redefining what language is and how we are going to use it in the future to communicate.  It is possible that most exchanges that are carried on in chatrooms are part of the entertainment cycle of the chatroom inhabitant.  However, just as in any casual conversation the importance of exchange is fundamental to who we are how we understand our world around us and whether we are able to pass on meaning to someone else. Without language we cannot understand one another and it this new language that has developed rapidly since the mid-1980s as chatroom ‘talk’ that will effect our communicative endeavours.  If chatroom language and turn-taking dialogue becomes a normal way of communication then our every day conversation may become either fragments as discourse in chatroom is or humans will learn to disassociate themselves from one stream of thought in order to engage in a hypertextual mindfield of broken conversational flow. At these early stages of electronic communication there may be a parallel drawn to the broken-‘English’ or pigeon of people learning a new language. As technology develops so that less text is typed, i.e. video, i.e web cameras and voice is used instead of keyboard type, chatrooms will take on more similarities to offline-person-to-person conversation.

Of the several theories which I have discussed in the case studies the primarily important theories for chatroom conversational analysis are Reading-response theory, semiotic analysis and discourse analysis. Finally I have used conversational analysis to create a coding of electronic talk. As I discussed in CS 1.2, ‘reading is as important to writing as listening is to speaking. It is the response to the text by the reader that creates the written dialogue of the reader-writer-listener-speaker in a chatroom.’ Even though I used different theories with specific case studies I found that the theories could have been applied to any of the case studies. However, using Reader-response theory in case study one I found significant as that chatroom was about an emergency. I looked at two emergency situations in the course of this research, a chatroom during Hurricane Floyd and several chatrooms during September 11th in New York City. I found that in the Hurricane chatroom that it had the highest number of statements made to anyone in the chatroom, 40 percent, and overall there were 58 percent of the utterances in the emergency chatroom posed as statements. These figures were the average of the six chatrooms[1] with 58 percent of the dialogue being statements to either a particular person or to anyone in the chatroom[2], and 12 percent were answers to a previous utterance whilst 11 percent were questions to either a particular person or to anyone in the chatroom. What this indicates is that, in the chatrooms that I visited, the majority of the utterances


6.2 Questions asked in case studies and in Introduction

Re. RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS 1 – ‘That people create a different textual self for each chatroom environment they are in.’[3]

Most chat servers divide their chatrooms into areas. is one of the larger chat servers. Talk City reports more than 10,000 chat sessions a month, surpassing 1.5 million hours of online conversation in September 2001.

v    Hosted Rooms (Our safest rooms, with hosts who help keep the conversation on track -- and help new chatters feel at home. Talkcity  re. ChatSafe‘Tired of chatroom flooders, hackers and harassers? Talk City's new ChatSafe service delivers an environment that minimizes the ability of intruders to disrupt your chat, and gives you the tools and resources you need to maximize your freedom and enjoyment.’) The rooms in this area are: TalkCity-Lobby+,  TalkCity-News+ and TalkCity-NewToChat+

v     Featured Rooms (‘Rooms where chatters prefer to follow Talk City Standards. Rooms may be owned and hosted by members. Conversation son TalkCity run the gamut from personal lives to sports to world events.  Here are some rooms with a focus on different subjects. This is a good starting place for finding people with interests similar to yours.) The rooms in this area are: Local-Texas+, TeenTalk+ and Headlines-Computers+.

v      Open Rooms (Open category rooms are not regularly moderated or monitored. Visitors accept additional risks when chatting here.) Some of the rooms in this area (there are more than 500 rooms) are: MarriedNLonely, Tennessee-Chatters and Wellness as well as the rooms I list below which I visited.  

I am reviewing the following rooms briefly of the more than one thousand rooms available to chat in within the TalkCity portal. There are rooms for any topic imaginable and my purpose in researching various rooms within the TalkCity arena is to get a ‘feel’ for the variety of conversations in different rooms.  I was unable to ‘capture’ dialogue in TalkCity as their rooms appear in java applets, which will not allow cutting or copying and pasting.  My comments therefore, will not discuss actual text as I do in the chatrooms in the case studies which I have used, but instead give a general overview to identify whether there is turn taking as described in the individual case studies. This is not an intensive review of chatrooms but I am just demonstrating whether different chatrooms will exhibit different conversation.  For the TalkCity rooms I visited and the rooms at Chatropolis which is different than most chatrooms as it is more of a sexual image exchange site with little discussion ever involved, I wanted to observe current conversations.  The TalkCity rooms I visited were:


§  dealing-with-disability  I checked into this room on several occasions and there was no one in it.  The time of day I visited was between 9 AM and Noon Australian time which meant the middle of the night in the States.  There was a set topic, ‘Showing we care’, but as there was no one to chat with I moved on to the next room.

§  diddling-n-doodling  No one in the room

§  flippinchicks   No one in the room

§  !massachusetts_flirts  21 visitors – There was a lot of ‘talk’ with little answering anyone.  There was mainly just statements, such as ‘I will never eat McDonalds again’, with no follow up, even by the same person.  There was a sense of just passing the time away.

§ married-lonely-hearts- No one in the room

§ not-necessarily-married five – I said I was doing a PhD on ‘Conversational analysis of chatrooms’ – The five people already in the room carried on dialogue on what I was doing a PhD on for about half an hour.  It became a very question and answer chat and shows that whatever was being discussed in a chatroom can be changed.  Of course, I don’t know what was previously said, but for the approximately 200 turn takings I was involved in questions and answers were almost sequential.  Someone would ask a question, and I would answer.  

§ !sexy-adults-who-arent-shy  Seven participants – everyone wrote in something to the effect of ‘neuage are you a male or female?’



(21:22:15 ) hubby alone : Hi everyone...


(21:24:53 ) oh (m) 4r/t : hello all..any horny ladies looking for hot phone private message me..


 (21:25:32 ) Darkside(m,44,TO)) : givent the extent to which men appear to outnumber women in these rooms, perhaps it would be more satisfying to be gay?


(21:26:51 ) Darkside(m,44,TO)) : but hey, nice as ray's cock is, it just can't compare to a luscious juicy pussy..Mmmmmmmm


(21:27:48 ) Darkside(m,44,TO)) : ever the optimist he decides to depart for another room


(21:27:55 ) ray w/Self pics says to Darkside(m,44,TO)): a luscious juicy pussy is just what it needs


(21:28:15 ) Hole in One (m) PRIVATELY whispers to ALL: fuck chat anyone (m/f)?


(21:28:19 ) Darkside(m,44,TO)) says to ray w/Self pics: lol...ain't that the truth


(21:30:09 ) ray w/Self pics : any women like to chat and see some more?


Taking the dialogue from one other room we have the following turn taking:


(21:54:39 ®) ©SCREWIE gently nudges ~*~LilCutee in Maryland~: dont let the bed bugs bite.


(21:54:53 ) (F)allen SlutGoddess says to Traveling Man: Thank you. Good eveing, *S*


(21:55:05 ®) ©SCREWIE gently nudges ~Banshee~: yep yep...she better.


(21:55:24 ®) ~Banshee~ says to ©SCREWIE: LOL


(21:55:42 ®) ©SCREWIE gently nudges FREAK: elohssa says whats up?


(21:55:44 ) (F)allen SlutGoddess says to (M)agnet..: Ah! Your first response that you wont like... chuckling... I don't talk in private, unless, ummmmmm....I am , errrr.......getting a lil intimate , *S*


(21:56:03 ) (F)allen SlutGoddess says to Harry: Neither, I'm afraid, *laughs*


(21:56:36 ) (F)allen SlutGoddess says to (M)agnet..: chuckling... This guy has no clue if this is true because he's not yet had the Goddess experience, *S*


(21:57:32 ®) ©SCREWIE invites ~Banshee~ to get a little cozier: ya board?


(21:57:54 ) (F)allen SlutGoddess says to Traveling Man: How has your evening been?


(21:59:57 ) oh (m) 4r/t : hello all..any horny ladies looking for hott phone please private message me...thanks


(22:00:05 ®) ~Banshee~ offers a candy to ©SCREWIE: sorry that i dont have any brownies


(22:00:37 ) (F)allen SlutGoddess says to Traveling Man: I like many things. Just saw the halfpipe. pretty exciting stuff, *S*


(22:00:47 ®) ©SCREWIE agrees with ~Banshee~: yep ...your sorry...*L*J/ on a roll....thats all

Chatropolis,, had 1684Users when I visited Chatropolis has a lot of specific areas (Cybersex,  Image Exchange,  Alternative Lifestyle, Vampires,  Bondage, S&M, Fetish, Gorean Lifestyle, Role Playing and Bars), each with many rooms such as Cybersex which has rooms as [AnalopolisAnal Sex Chat’], [Bed & BreakfastGeneral Chat’], 

[Bits of TitsBreast Chat’], [Five Knuckle ShuffleMasturbation’], [Gang BangCyber Sex’] and [Hairless and HornyShaved Smooth’]. Like TalkCity above there are many rooms catering to whatever anyone fancies.  The dialogue to the right was cut and pasted from one of the rooms (observing more than a dozen rooms the talk was basically the same as this dialogue with little variation. In all these chatrooms there are a lot of photos posted, primarily of females in various undress situations.

CNN Community Chatrooms ( in their chatroom ‘America under attack’ had (72804 messages, 3061 new) when I visited soon after the 11 September incident. (see comparison of moderated and an un moderated site:  


notelooking for overlaps or commonalities here.  A question I often ask as I progress with this study is whether there is a difference between theories.  For example, what is so different between Conversational Analysis’ ‘Discourse Theory and Speech Act Theory?   Each theory has volumes of published material, advocates, dissenters, as well as there are schools of thoughts with breakaway theories and on forever.  Is any one theory better than another for the analysis of conversation?  Can one theory better produce meaning than another can?  After looking at each theory individually in the Case Studies, I will attempt to answer these questions in the discussion and comparison chapter.


The language frontier: Chat-room as the beginning and end of language.

With the wide availability and increase in devices to receive and relay text messages, languages have become the latest frontier in communication.  Language is perhaps the biggest remaining hindrance to any interaction online. The Internet has made the world a global village, with English as the lingua franca of cyberspace, but the numbers of non-English speakers and those who don't share English as their first language are rising rapidly and will soon overtake the number of native English speakers. One of the fastest growing non-English speaking Internet communities is in China, where Web sites are springing up in local languages faster than ever before.


According to IDC, the number of people accessing the Internet in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan is expected to reach more than 200 million by 2003. There are also more Web sites specific to Spanish speakers found online as well as other Asian and European languages. Not surprisingly, all these people prefer talking in chat-room in their native language. However there is a way for interaction between people of different language by using automated translating services. There are already a number of these on the Internet and perhaps the most famous is AltaVista's Babel Fish site, which boasts high accuracy and has a growing number of users. The name Babel Fish stems from a fictional device (a small fish) which intergalactic travellers put into their ears to understand any language. The Babel Fish translator was dreamt up by Douglas Adams in his novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

   is that chatrooms are a new genre of writing and communicating style. Firstly, chatroom talk can be added to other genres of writing such as poetry, novels, letter writing and emails to name only a few writing genres as a form of writing style which can be analyzed from a linguistic view, and this thesis will prove the argument that chat is a writing genre. Secondly, chatrooms are a new (since about 1992) form of communicating style in which people are able to carry on conversation. At the start of this thesis I have formulated several other hypothesis as a framework of investigation of online communication. These hypothesis can not be answered using quantitative analysis, as there is not a way at this time to know who is in what chatroom. I discuss the problems associated with attempting to answer these hypothesis in the Methodology Chapter and suggest areas for further research in the conclusion of this thesis.

Different ‘textual self’

Natural conversation

That 'chat' does not differs from natural conversation

1) That people create a different 'textual self' for each electronic environment they are in, and that we should not continue to regard all electronic textual practices as equal. (A question arises whether the speaker makes the chatroom or does the chatroom create the speaker?) Just as in real life, talk parallels an environment. For example, one speaks differently at a church supper than at a brothel) I am referring to different chatroom environments and not the wide range of electronic dialogue tools available such as eMail, eGroups, newsgroups and one-on-one eChat areas such as Instant Messenger or ICQ. Some chatrooms invite participators to play a role such as in ‘Friendly Bondage Chat’[4][11].

‘A person may claim to be a different gender, or might use two identities at the same time in one chatroom....It’s up to each individual to decide how they wish to represent themselves...’  

Participators in a religious chatroom may choose to ‘speak’ differently than they would in the bondage chatroom or in a baseball chatroom or an academic or policy-making chatroom or a crisis care chatroom.  These are the various ‘textual selves’ I am exploring.  In my research I use a variety of chatrooms to analyse how text is written.

2) That conversation within chatrooms, without all the cues of previous forms of conversation (physical or phone meeting and dialogues) will change how we come to know others and new cues based on written conversation may become as important as the physical ones which we rely on now.

3) That observational study of chatroom conversation can capture some of the adaptations of conversational behaviours from the way people identify themselves (log-on or screen names) and how they 'talk' As this is a grey area from an ethics point of view, the identifying of the user, I may not be able to explore this as fully as I would want to.

4) That this work gives us a better understanding of how, and why, chatrooms are an important area in which to create a new conversational research theory. This new eclectic approach to ‘chat’ ‘borrows’ from existing theories of linguistics and Computer Mediated Communications as outlined in the beginning of the Literature Review.

5) That 'chat' does not differ from natural conversation


 6.3 features of chatroom talk which makes it a new genres

 Chatroom discourse is a new genre of literature with several features which differentiates it from other writings. Firstly, there is the feature of the fleeting text. What is written is seldom ‘captured’ for future reference. Whereas other literary genres such as thesis, fantasy, poetry, emails and letter writing are preserved, discussed and subjects of future writings, chat dialogue is seemingly chaotic and disappears when the chatroom is left or the computer is turned off.

compare all seven case study’s chatroom’s dialogue in a discussion of whether there is a pattern of talk that is similar in all chatrooms.

This study has looked at chatroom conversation as a new genre of writing. My research has come from the study of a number of chatroom dialogues. I have concentrated on several Internet multivoiced chatrooms, two two person only Instant Messenger dialogues as well as having looked at several other chatrooms for comparisons. After using several linguistic theories to investigate chatrooms I have found that the theories I used had some useful tools to analyse chatroom talk but none of them were fully adequate on their own to discuss chatrooms as a writing genre. The reason is because all the theories pre-date this form of communication. I therefore, propose that a new theory, using parts of other linguistic theories be developed to research the chatroom genre. I have labelled this theory, Online Discourse Analysis Theory (ODAT). In its most basic state this is the theory of investigating all electronic communication, including, email, chatrooms (MUDs, IRC, IM, ICQ), discussion and news groups, net-conferencing, mobile telephone, hand-held computers as well as new forums as technology develops. I have narrowed this study to Chatroom Online Discourse Analysis Theory (CODAT) and have furthered narrowed the study of Online Discourse to a linguistic study to show how people communicate online to create a new genre of writing and speaking.

What makes chatroom writing a new genre is the result of its format. Fleeting writing is the result of chat disappearing soon after it is written.

 As I have noted throughout this thesis, online chat is a new language which uses several linguistic features that are un common in other genres. Firstly, the emoticons people use has an agreed meaning for only several symbols. Using :) is interpreted as a smile or that what was said was a bit of a joke. A few others which are commonly used as expressions of feelings online are: {{{{}}} for hugs and  :-) for  frowning. This is the beginning of a new language which incorporates symbols for words. There are thousands of other emoticons, many are the playful imagination of the creator of the emoticon, such as;



Person who is sad because he or she has a large fish for a nose



@@@@8 (|) 

Marge Simpson


Al Jolson


Just as there are several emoticons which are becoming universal, for example, on French chat sites[5] many of the emoticons are the same as are used in English chatrooms, many may not become part of a universal language of computer speak. As electronic talk becomes more prevalent there will be more emoticons exchanged with the same intended meaning.


le sourire

the smile


le rire

the laughter


le triste

the sad one


je ne dirai rien

I will not say anything


sans commentaire

without comment



Abbreviations on line


I have collected several hundred emoticons and abbreviations and saved them at,


Discussing how computer language is linked with other languages

Language origins are based on speculations. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were several proposals with labels such as; ding-dong, bow-wow and yo-he-ho theories (Barber 1972) to explain the origin of language.  With chatrooms, language may be going through a new and rapid development.   Chatroom communication separates from traditional language through world corruption and its use of abbreviations and emoticons.

The acquisition of computer-based language is just as important as the learning of a child to speak.  Because it computer-speak is done by people who already have a basic language it is a learning of a new language or a shortening of linguistics to what would be in a social person-to-person setting a series of grunts or maybe even just hand signals.   Chatroom conversation is similar to earlier forms of communication such as smoke-signals.  They are simple in their expression but meaning is derived from knowing what they mean in context.



Chatrooms are as close to being pre-literate [D1] as they are to being an advanced literate textual state. Language is broken down to its simplest rudimentary format.  At the same time there is a certain advanced form of communication involved, when one is limited to a few words to state irony, belief structures or humour, as well as to have a command of enough emoticons and abbreviations to create meaningful interaction.  [D2] 


When doing comparison on action – re. Discourse markers p. 10-13 schiffrin


Wednesday, 13 February 2002 14:31:02 1981/2034





Nonlinear scientists believe that self-organization is part of the dynamics by which life arises from inert matter. Nonlinear systems often undergo a process of self-organization in which order arises spontaneously out of disorder. P.23 IONS march-may 2002.


Pre-electronic corpora 



Pre-electronic corpora  see for more

Corpus-based research is often assumed to have begun in the early 1960s with the availability of electronic, machine-readable corpora. However, before then there was a considerable tradition of corpus-based linguistic analysis of various kinds occurring in five main fields of scholarship. (Kennedy 1998: 13)


biblical and literary studies


Alexander Cruden's Concordance of the Authorized Version of the Bible(1736)




Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language
- 150,000 illustrative citations
- the web version of the dictionary is now available.


The Oxford English Dictionary (1928)
- 5 million citations totalling perhaps 50 million words to illustrate the meanings and uses of the 414,825 entries.


Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language. (1828)
1st edition of Merriam-Webster is now available on the web.
Merriam-Webster's 3rd edition: a corpus of over 10 million citation slips.


dialect studies


The English Dialect Dictionary (Wright, 1898 - 1905)


The Existing Phonology of English Dialects (Ellis, 1889)


language education studies


Thorndike, E.L. (1921) Teacher's Workbook.
a corpus of 4.5 million words from 41 different sources to make a word frequency list.


Thorndike & Lorge (1944) The Teacher's Workbook of 30,000 Words.
18 million words from a wider range of textual sources.


grammatical studies


Jepersen, O. (1909-49) A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. I - VII.


Kruisinga, E. (1931 - 32) A Handbook of Present-Day English.


Poutsma, H. (1926 - 29) A Grammar of Late Modern English. 


Fries, C.C. (1940) American English Grammar.


Fries, C.C. (1952) The Structure of English.
a 250,000-word corpus of recorded telephone conversations.


The Survey of English Usage (SEU) Corpus (Quirk, 1968)
- one-million-word corpus
- 50% written/ 50% spoken
- spoken part: published separately in electronic form from 1980 as the London-Lund Corpus
- corpus description is here.


Major electronic corpora for linguistic research


First generation corpora


Statistics of users

Eighty-four percent of US Internet users have contacted an online group[6]


Smoke signals to Internet


 Some  theoreticians have based their discourse theories on environmental factors while others believed that it is the innate factors that determine the acquisition of language.  We can not assume what the innate factors here are but the acquisition of language, if shown here, is of limiting value.  What is shown in chatrooms is the invention or even the reinvention of communication using the minimal amount of words.


The primary intents and purposes of the practice of linguistic science, directly point to its fundamental capacity to convey, to transfer and to exchange meaningful information by physical means of expressing and exchanging information.

For example, with respect to our special species' case, we cannot alter the fundamental nature of the matter, whether the physical signals are sent in the secondary form of smoke signals from hilltop to hilltop, or by way of drumbeats from jungle settlement to jungle settlement, or whether the physical signals are sent in the secondary form of fiber-optic cable telephone signals from sea to shining sea and from shore to shifting shore, or in any of the various, possible other secondary physical forms of different ways of which there are many more.

 6.4 Further Research 

One of the areas of on-line conversation that would be good for future investigate is the differences between conversations of known participants and unknown. (see case study 2 – IM) 



Linguistic study of flaming – flaming as discourse

how people communicate intent through flaming.


star chatrooms

However, the smaller groups seem to attract more dialogue with ‘The_Perfect_Britney_Spears_Fans’ group having the most members postings messages of all the groups except for the largest group, Britney Spears Legs Club and Sexy_Britney_Spears having very few postings.  This could be a further research project looking at how young people and fan worship operates as meaning generation.


Is chatroom conversation different with people we know in them?


1.        Smoke signals and Internet


For further study

How one responds to messages may be a result of whether the communication is Point-to-Point or Point-to-Mass.

I do not include multimedia in the chatroom as part of the interpretation of the chat text in this thesis as I am only interested, here, in text only chatrooms. However, I would believe that a chatroom with multimedia would have one of two affects on the conversation.  Firstly, there could be so much chaos due to text plus images and sound to contend with that the textual message could easily become lost.  Secondly, the converse, the multimedia could enhance the textual message and make it clearer. This would make a good further research project.



Table 05 Case Study + Theory

Table X12

Theory used

Case study



# of users

Turns recorded

# words[7]

Reader-Response Theory

chapter 1   






Reading Theory - (also - hypertextuality)       

chapter 1   






Speech Act (SA) theory

Chapter 2

Astrology 'chat' ----





Discourse Analysis (DA)

Chapter 3

General chat





Conversational Analysis (CA)  

Chapter 4

Web3d computer modeling 'chat' ----





Semiotics (Pragmatics)

Chapter 5

Britney Spears Chatroom '





Linguistic schools of thought

Chapter 6

'baseball chat'   






Chapter 7















A/ = greetings or salutations

5 (30)

3 (01)


B/ = statement- open no one in particular, ever who is in the chatroom

1 (40)

4 (09)