Toward a first draft as of Wednesday, 3 April 2002 ~ 1st draft due June 1 ‘02 (79,891)

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Abstract iv

Chapter 1. v

1-a. Introduction. v

1-b. The problem of researching online. v

1-b/1.Are chatrooms public or private? vi

1-c. Research Questions. vii

1-d. Research Hypothesis. vii

1-e. Personal interest in researching online conversation. viii

1-f. The purpose of examining online conversation. viii

1-h. Theories of discourse analysis. xii

1-h/1. Is electronic talk comparable to verbal talk?. xiii

1-h/2. "Multilogue". xiii

1-i. Introduction Bibliography. xvii

Chapter 2 Literature Review.. xviii

2-a. Literature Review Abstract xviii

2-b. Introduction to the Literature review.. xviii

2-c. Definitions of CHAT.. xix

2-a/1. CHAT.. xix

2-a/2. TALK.. xix

2-d. MOOS, MUDS, IRC and IM.. xxi

2-d/1. MUDs. xxi

2-d/2. I. M. xxii

2-d/3. IRC.. xxiii

2-e. THEORIES. xxiii

2-e/1. Conversational Analysis (CA) xxv

2-e/1-a. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states: xxvii

2-e/s. Speech Act Theory. xxx

2-e/3. Discourse Analysis. xxx

2-e/4. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) including: xxxi

2-e/4/a. Electronic Communicated Analysis. xxxi

2-e/4/b. Computational Linguistics. xxxi

2-e/4/c. Text and Corpus Analysis. xxxi

2-e/5.  Pragmatics. xxxii

2-e/7.  Linguistic schools of thought xxxiii

2-f. Current Research. xxxiv

Chapter 3 methodology –. xxxv

3-a.  Transcription. xxxv

Chapter 4 Case Studies. xxxix

TABLE X12/summary. xxxix

CS 1. Case Study One. xxxix

CS 1.0 Introduction. xxxix

CS 1.0.1 Abstract xxxix

CS 1.0.2 Research Questions. xl

CS Is the reader the writer who is writing the reader J?. xl

CS Does the reader or the writer, produce meaning within ‘this’ chatroom, or do they create meaning together?  xl

CS 1.0.3 Reason for choosing this chatroom.. xl

CS 1.1 Methodology. xl

CS 1.1.1 Transcription. xli

CS 1.1.2 Reading Theory. l

CS Skills of shared language. lxii

CS linguistic skills. lxxi

CS knowledge and skills of discourse structure and organisation  lxxxvi

CS knowledge of the world. lxxxviii

CS metalinguistic knowledge and skills. xc

CS 1.1.3 Reader-response theory. xcvii

CS 1.2 Theorists. cv

CS 1.2.1 Norman N. Holland. cvi

CS 1.2.2 Kristeva (1980) cxvii

CS 1.2.3 Wolfgang Iser cxx

CS 1.2.4 Stanley Fish. cxxx

CS Phenomenological approach to reading. cxxxiii

CS 1.2.5 Umberto Eco. cxli

CS 1.3 Discussion. cxlii

CS 1.4. Conclusion. cli

CS 1.d/1. Does the reader or the writer, produce meaning within ‘this’ chatroom, or do they create meaning together?. cliii

CS 1.d/2. The Reader is the writer who is writing the reader J    cliv

CS 1.5 Appendix. cliv

CS 2. Case Study Two.. clv

CS 2.0 Introduction. clvii

CS 2.0.1 dingo42> nicole wahts your sign ??. clviii

CS 2.0.2 Question. clx

CS 2.0.3 Why. clxi

CS 2.1 Methodology. clxiv

CS 2.1.1 Transcription. clxv

CS 2.1.2 Speech  Acts. clxviii

CS 2.2 Discussion. clxviii

CS 2.2.0 Speech Acts. clxix

CS Speech Act Vocabulary. clxxxi

CS Locutionary. clxxxiii

CS Illocutionary. clxxxiv

CS Perlocutionary. clxxxv

CS Felicity conditions. clxxxvi

CS Performatives. clxxxix

CS Constative. cxcii

CS 2.2.1 Indirect Speech Acts. cciii

CS Truth conditions. ccvii

CS Commissives. ccxv

CS Expressives. ccxvii

CS Declarations. ccxix

CS Representatives. ccxxi

CS 2.2.2 Theorists. ccxxv

CS John Austin. ccxxvi

CS John Searle. ccxxxii

CS 2.3 Conclusion. ccxlix

CS 2.4 Appendixes. cclviii

CS 3. Case Study Three. cclix

CS 3.0 Introduction. cclxxi

CS 3.0.1 Question ~ Is there discourse intent in this chatroom?. cclxxiv

CS 3.1 Methods. cclxxvi

CS 3.1.1 Transcriptions. cclxxvi

CS Welcome to Talk City. cclxxxi

CS 3.1.2 Discourse Analysis. cclxxxii

CS  3.2 Discussion. cclxxxv

CS 3.2.1 Theory. cclxxxv

CS Discourse Analysis. cclxxxvii

CS Discourse and Frames. cclxxxix

CS*<scud4>.. ccxci

CS Example 1 greetings. ccxcii

CS Example 2 greeting response. ccxciv

CS Example 3 complaint ccxcvii

CS Example 4 hiya / thanx. ccc

CS Example 5 <---- non-spoken intent cccii

CS Example 6 framed response. cccvii

CS Anti-language. cccxi

CS*<B_witched_2002-guest> 0HI cccxvi

CS Example 8. cccxvi

CS*<jenniferv> ** rofl cccxxiii

CS Example 9. cccxxv

CS Example 10. cccxxix

CS*HI nice to see you too Jennv :))))))) cccxxxvi

CS Example 11. cccxxxvii

CS Example 12 see ya. cccxxxix

CS September 11. cccxli

CS Example 13 ‘911 Chat’ cccxlvi

CS Example 13 a what's happened there ???. cccxlviii

CS Example 13 b Gaddafi rules! cccl

CS 3.3 Conclusion. cccliv

CS 3.4 Appendixes. ccclviii

CS 4. Case Study Four. ccclviii

CS 4.0 URLs. ccclix

CS 4. 1 Case Study Question. ccclxi

CS 4. 1.1 Are moderated rooms casual chats. ccclxii

CS 4. 1.2 More or less. ccclxviii

CS 4.2 Introduction. ccclxix

CS 4.2.1 Moderated/Unmoderated. ccclxxii

CS September 11 chat ccclxxiii

CS Moderated [Brian] Is this going to change aviation in America  ccclxxiv

CS Unmoderated [ZtingRay] what a dumb ass. ccclxxvi

CS Comparison. ccclxxvii

CS 4.3 Methodology. ccclxxx

CS 4.3.1 Conversation Analysis. ccclxxxii

CS Theorists. ccclxxxv

CS John Austin, G. H Mead, J. R. Searle. cccxc

CS Sacks, Jefferson and Schegloff cccxci

CS Robert Nofsinger cccxcii

CS Erving Goffman. cccxcii

CS Diana Slade and Suzanne Eggins. cccxcii

CS Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. cccxciv

CS 4.4 Discussion. cdxxv

CS 4.4.1 Bound by orderliness. cdxxvi

CS Flaming. cdxxviii

CS 4.4.2 Content and analysis. cdxxxiv

CS 4.4.3Who is "leading". cdxxxv

CS 4.5 Conclusion. cdxxxv

CS 4.6 Appendix. cdxxxvi

CS 5. Case Study 5. cdxxxvi

CS 5.0 Questions. cdxxxviii

CS 5.1 Introduction. cdxxxix

CS 5.1.0 Britney. cdxl

CS 5.2 Methods. cdxlix

CS 5.2.1 Transcription. cdlii

CS 5.2.2 Theorists/writers. cdlvi

CS Halliday. cdlvii

CS Levinson. cdlvii

CS Nofsinger cdlviii

CS 5.3 Discussion. cdlx

CS 5.3.1 Theories. cdlxi

CS Pragmatics. cdlxi

CS Semantics. cdlxiv

CS General Semantics as a System.. cdlxv

CS Aristotelian/Non-Aristotelian Reorientation. cdlxvi

CS 5.4 Conclusion. cdlxxxviii

CS 5.4.1 Comparisons. cdlxxxviii

CS 5.5 Appendix. cdlxxxix

CS 6. Case Study 6. cdxci

Case Study Six. cdxcii

CS 6.0 Introduction. dvi

CS 6.0.1 Why this chatroom?. dviii

CS 6.0.2 Questions. dxi

CS 6.1 Methodology. dxiv

CS 6.1.1 Transcriptions. dxv

CS 6.1.2 Theories. dxvi

CS In the Beginning. dxxi

CS 6.2 Discussion. dxxii

CS 6.2.1 Prague School dxxiii

CS 6.2.2 Functional Sentence Perspective. dxxxvii

CS rheme and theme. dxli

CS Meaning-Text Theory (MTT) dxlv

CS 6.2.3 Grammar dlii

CS Systemic Linguistics. dlviii

CSS6. Systemic-Functional Linguistics -Functional dlix

CSS6. Stratification grammar dlx


CSS6. Context dlxv

CSS6. Semantics. dlxviii

CSS6. Lexico-Grammar dlxviii

CSS6. Phonology-Graphology. dlxviii

CS Dependency grammar dlxix

CS Natural Language Syntax. dlxx

CS Word Grammar dlxxi

CS Categorial Grammar dlxxi

CS Construction grammar dlxxii

CS Relational Grammar dlxxii

CS Montague Grammar dlxxii

CS Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar dlxxiii

CS Lexical-Functional Grammar dlxxiii

CS Cognitive Grammar dlxxiv

CS Transformational Grammar dlxxiv

CS 6.2.4 Tagmemics. dlxxvi

CS 6.2.6 Constance school dlxxviii

CS 6.3 Conclusion. dlxxxi

CS 6.4Appendix. dlxxxv

CS 6.5 Bibliography for CS Six. dlxxxvi

Case Study 7. dlxxxviii

Chapter 5 Discussion Comparison. dxciii

Table X12. dcxv

Chapter 6 Conclusion Suggestions for further studies. dcxix

For further study. dcxxiii

7. Bibliography. dcxxiv

8. Appendix. dcxxvi



Beginning with an understanding of Conversational Analysis (CA) as originating with Sacks and Schegloff (1973) as a systematic model of understanding verbal interactions this thesis discusses how turn-taking in chatroom, though more complex than every day 'casual' conversation, is very similar to 'talk'.This is a study of how the process of exchanging meaning is functionally motivated within electronic 'talk'. My first endeavour will be to create a semiotic model for 'Natural Language' within chatroom milieu. A protocol to 'capture' chatroom 'talk' will be established. Referring to this work in terms of 'conversation' is a misnomer as conversation has been considered an interchange through speech. However, dialogue in an electronic milieu is very similar to conversation and speech, the only things missing are sound and sight between participants, but that will change as technology does. This research though, will focus on conversation that is without the normal communicative cues of body language and voice.

In an effort to formulate a Chatroom Analysis a combination of the following methodologies will be studied and borrowed from as needed: Conversational Analysis (CA), Speech Act (SA), Discourse Analysis (DA), Reading Theory, Text and Corpus Analysis, Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), Linguistics and pragmatics.

Chapter 1

1-a. Introduction 

I am interested in the on-line interactive environment, its departure from the culture of a print milieu and changes affecting both the reader and the writer. As on-line chatroom and discussion groups grow in popularity and importance and as these applications increase, so too, will the analysing of these environments, both in depth and range.

1-b. The problem of researching online

There are many forms of electronic communication to choose from. Identifying the area of electronic communication to analyse, was the first task in this study. A continuing array of new communication forms being developed. How people 'talk' has gone through many transformations, from hieroglyphics to smoke signals to beating drums to electronic and now to digital systems to share meaning. One of the first forms of non face-to-face 'turn-taking' communication available to most people in Western Society on a large scale, was the telephone. Now non face-to-face 'turn-taking' communication is being used on a worldwide scale with the growing use of computers. Currently, as discussed below, there are many technologies available to carry on online discourse, such as telephones, mobile phones with SMS text messages, hand-held computers, pagers, as well as computers in all sizes.Research online is different from face-to-face research. There are the obvious differences: not always being able to verify who the writer of the text is, determining whether the writing has any validity to it and not knowing if what is read is a cut-and-paste of several other’s writings.  There is the problem of intent regarding why has the ‘speaker’ chosen to begin the turn-taking process in a specific chat area.  There is often no knowledge of the original, the beginning, the source or even the end of the discourse, as a chat room could be in operation continually. Let us first examine one of the problems of not doing face-to-face research, namely, that of intent. Writing has a long history of questionable intent.  Research based on unknown writing is, at the best of times, experimental. For example, who wrote the Biblical line “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God” (John1:1)?  If we read it today, how many generations of “cut-and-paste” are involved.  What were the original words?  What did it mean? Whose translation are we quoting? We could say that we are talking about sound. Can we ask ‘what was the word that was in the beginning?’  Was the word spoken in Yiddish, American, French or were emoticons and abbreviations used as is common in chatrooms?  When we don’t know the source and all we have is our perspective on something, then we are left with our translation of someone else’s meaning and translation of an earlier writing.  In other words we don’t have a clue.  Online research can have this same problem.  How do we do research online?  Obviously we do it online. When the research is on chatrooms the only way to do this research is online. Just as one who is researching a radio talk show would need to record the conversation from the radio, one analysing chatrooms would need to save the data to a file for research.  Several problems with doing this will be addressed.Another problem is the enormity of the task in analysing chatroom ‘talk’.  Where do we go from here?  I have narrowed this topic to a very few chat rooms; seven case studies. The problem with a study of anything involving technology is its shortness of relevance.  Every day I get emails from other researchers beginning to write theses or papers in this field.  Online conversation has become the trendy subject to investigate.This study seeks to enhance understanding of communications within electronic textual sites. There have been several researchers who have begun discussing the Internet and communications within electronic sites (see Rheingold, 1985, 1991, 1994; Poster, 1988, 1990; Mattelart, 1996; Woolley, 1992; Eco, 1987; Gibson, 1986; Turkle, 1995) as well as an increasing number of Internet based academics, such as Chandler, Landow and Cicognani. The French philosopher and social critic (hyperrealistic reporter), Jean Baudrillard is continuing his work in cyberspace, and is currently listed as an editor in CTHEORY[1], a weekly international journal of cultural theory, technology and philosophy. I will come back to these researchers in the literature review chapter for this thesis as well as discuss these people in the individual Case Studies When I started this research in 1997 I was able to gather very little material from anyone else doing an analysis of chatroom talk.  There were several who had written theses on the sociological and psychological aspects of online behaviours, but I was unable to find many researchers who were examining chat-communication from discourse linguistic theories, such as Conversational Analysis and Speech Act Theory.  The most I could find on Internet dialogue at the start of my research was from the semiotic researchers Daniel Chandler and George Paul Landow[2]

 who have published their research on hypertext at Brown University. Landow’s research is of limited value for analysis of chatroom “talk”, however, his research of hypertext has similarity to my research as hypertext is one of the modes for moving around in cyberspace. Therefore, due to limited researchers in the field I am studying, I had the sense of ‘flying solo’ at the beginning of my research.  On the positive side, this has given me the opportunity to break new ground; “blaze a new trail” in online conversational research.  In recent years (2000 plus) there has been much interest in online communication from a linguistic theoretical view, as can be seen in my rapidly growing collection of resources on online communication studies (see, for a growing list of online studies). Therefore, I have been able to share in exciting new developments in this area of knowledge and research which will undoubtedly have profound implications on our world because of the growing use of the Internet.If the social sciences’ two roles are, observation and explanation of human behaviour, then it is the chat-ethnographer’s responsibility to explain what is going on in ‘discourse communities’. Researchers such as Robin Hamman ( a doctoral student at the University of Westminster, London, currently studying online communities, takes an ethnographic approach to researching chatrooms.An ethnographical approach provides a method for learning about, and learning how to talk about, that elusive process we call culture.  In this study I am discussing what is loosely referred to as an Internet culture.  This concept of an Internet Culture will be explored briefly in the conclusion and discussion chapter of this thesis. The purpose of my work is for me to gain experience in ethnographic practices such as interviewing, fieldwork, and qualitative analysis and to find the most appropriate method to examine the chatroom milieu. Most simply put it is the participant-observer in chatroom, the writer-reader of the text who influences and is influenced by the chat milieu.  in essence I am more interested in the words as they appear and how meaning is derived from the often rapidly passing text on a screen; whether it is a computer or a device as small as the screen on a mobile telephone.

1-b/1.Are chatrooms public or private? [3]

There is the question of whether communication on the World Wide Web, especially exchanges within chatrooms, are public or private. (Cybersociology)[4]. All exchanges within chatrooms, accessible to the public, are public, unless there is a notice saying all the dialogue is copy written. A chatroom where the participant has to log on as part of an organisation such as a university, company or government web site, could be private and confidential. The behaviour of the participants could be different than in a chatroom that is open to the public and participants make up usernames which do not reflect or identify them. This issue of public and privacy will be further addressed in the discussion chapter. I have also addressed these issues of privacy and ethics with regards to re-producing online discourse in my proposal to the ethics committee of the University of South Australia before I began this thesis.[5]Areas of chatroom ‘space’ where talk is differentiated by anonymity (public), or the user is known (private) will be analysed for their use of grammar.  There are also various ‘types’ of chatrooms and I will elaborate on this further in this section.  Chatrooms can also be divided into either moderated or non-moderated. Moderated chatrooms can be subdivided into chatrooms where people submit questions and answers are provided.  This is most common in cases where people who are publicly known are in the chatroom, i.e. sport stars, politicians, and experts on a particular topic. Moderated chatrooms are ‘controlled’ by a particular person who controls the movement, the turn-taking, of chat.  For example, if there is inappropriate language which is considered offensive to others in the chatroom, the participant infringing can be prevented from continuing in the chatroom. Or if the ‘speaker’ wishes to dialogue on a topic that is not the assigned topic at that time, the moderator can block the ‘speaker’s’ messages from appearing in the chatroom. The chatrooms I will investigate are the open, non-moderated chatrooms as I believe these provide the opportunity for the flowing chat interaction I wish to analyse.  A question that I will explore throughout this thesis is “Are these chatrooms the closest to casual conversation?” And another question to address is whether we are all "eavesdropping" and taking a voyeuristic look into other’s conversations? I discuss this further down in passing when showing how governments, especially the United States Government since September 11, 2001, has developed sensitive listening and recording devices to track all online communication.  The question of whether people listen to other’s conversations in chatroom is discussed by others in sociological and psychological studies, as the Internet is so fluid listing onsite essays on this topic is futile as they may not be online at a future time.  As far as articles in journals or studies cited in books on this I have not found any as of February 2002. The term ‘lurker’ or ‘lurking’ describes one who chooses to just read the exchanges, instead of joining in the chat by posting their own messages. Most people will ‘lurk’ in a chat room at least until they feel comfortable with whether the content is what they wish to a part of.The emergence of the term 'chat' to describe electronic communication text forms is one indication of its difference from existing talk modes. There is the perception that online conversation is not serious and therefore may not be worthy of an intensive linguistic study. The term, 'chat', however captures only some of the dimensions of this emergent communication form. As online communication changes almost daily with new technologies I will only comment in passing on new services.  What is new today may be commonplace in a few months.  For example this week, Wednesday, 13 February 2002, British wireless carrier, Genie, announced a new type of messaging service that lets cell phone users send and receive messages containing a mix of different media, including pictures and sound recordings. Most cell phones currently (February 2002) only send and receive e-mails, instant messages, or short messages but Genie’s multimedia messaging, or MMS, will be able to send messages exchanged between wireless devices which will include pictures, music, images, graphics and ring tones. With the changing technologies of chat, conversational analysis of online chat will have much to research for future studies.Chatrooms differ from TV or radio “chat shows” in several ways.  Apart from the obvious physical voice giving a ‘hue’ to the speaker, the amount of dialogue which can be conveyed at any time in a chatroom is limited, primarily due to the amount of words which can be put in a chatroom at one time.  This ‘speaking’ within a chatroom can be very much limited to the ability of the participant to be able to type quickly. A person able to type 120 words per minute will be able to convey much more in a short time than a person typing with one finger is able to perform.[6]  I have found in my research that in a chatroom, from examining many thousands of lines of chat, that an average of five words is taken for each turn.  However, when conversation is ‘pieced’ together from ‘speakers’ a coherent conversation can be found.  In other electronic chat modes such as radio and television talk shows, more words can be ‘spoken’ by each individual.  Another major difference is the lack of control in most chatrooms of a topic, where there is no moderator[7]. In radio and television chats there is a moderator who keeps control of the topic in a chatroom. It is, however, up to the other participants in the chatroom, if they wish to, to control the topics. There is little doubt there is no privacy on the World Wide Web. Several countries have been working on eavesdropping systems designed to intercept virtually all email and fax traffic in the world and subject it to automated analysis called ECHELON.  This system has recently been admitted by the US government to be used and is intercepting all online communication.  Since September 11 the US government has vigorously defended its use of Echelon[8] to intercept terrorism threats.  However, there is not any reason why individuals could not use a similar system to observe other’s online activities.  This is already done using ‘cookies’ and placing pieces of codes on the World Wide Web (like ‘worms’) and furthermore, most chat sites are accessible by anyone who is capable of going online. Another behaviour that would be difficult, if not impossible, to know whether it is being done online is that a chatroom participant could easily insert pre-typed text. However, we can assume that if the same chunks of text repeatedly appeared that it was done through cutting and pasting the text. At a more functional level a particular phrase or word can be added to an ongoing conversation with the push of the copy (usually control-C) key on a computer. An example of this is in Case Study 3, the ‘Talk City’ chat of February 16, 2000. In this dialogue the ‘speaker’ “B_witched_200CS:2-guest” copies in ‘OHI’ 37 times in 75 turns of ‘speech’. One-half of the conversation is computer generated. I will further examine this in chapter 8 when analysing this particular chat.

1-c. Research Questions

I have posed the following research questions as a starting point toward analysing a culture of electronic-talk:Is turn taking negotiated within chatrooms? With the taking away of many identifying cues of participants (gender, nationality, age etc.) are issues of sexism and political correctness, as prevalent, as in face-to-face talk? How is electronic chat reflective of current social discourse?        Is meaning contractible within Chatrooms?Will chatrooms (as part of an online discourse) create a universal language?1) How is turn-taking negotiated within chatrooms? What does turn - taking reveal?   In face-to-face conversations, people can speak simultaneously (talk over one another) but in chatrooms, only one voice is ‘heard’ (seen) at a time because of the scrolling effect of the computer screen. In a chatroom where there are more than two ‘voices’, there are two primary functions of turn-taking that need addressing. Firstly, participants need to know when it is appropriate to ‘speak’ if he or she wishes to be heard and responded to. This is further broken down into two more functions of turn taking. The ‘speaker’ is either addressing one particular participant in the chatroom or the ‘speaker’ is addressing the group.  For example, by referring to something someone said in particular e.g. ‘how is 3+3 equal to 11’ or ‘speaking’ to the group, e.g. ‘whats the Mets/Bull score?’ the ‘speaker’ is identifying where he or she is placing ‘talk’.  Secondly, in casual conversation between people ‘there has to be a way of determining who the next speaker is to be’ (Eggins & Slade p. 25). In chatrooms, however, there is no protocol which indicates who the next speaker will be.  The next speaker is who ever hit their return key next. Turn taking will be analysed and discussed throughout this work.2) With the taking away of many identifying cues of participants (gender, nationality, social and economical standing, age etc) are issues of gender, nationality, social and economical standing, age as prevalent as in face-to-face talk? Does the chatroom milieu provide a pure communication space, where only words have meaning, and the author’s significance is only, the words produced.3) How is electronic chat reflective of current social discourse? I will examine whether eChat and in-person conversation appear to break down barriers between people of gender, nationality, social and economical standing, and age.  Some studies have shown that barriers still exist and are created by the authors themselves.  For example, it was found in one particular study that, female users who wrote themselves into a virtual community, did so, in an imagined social space very much defined by their experiences in a patriarchal culture.  As a result their discourse patterns were ‘gendered’; meaning that the female users were less participatory than their male counter parts, and often silent. (Dietrich, 1997: p. 181)4) Is meaning constructible within chatrooms? In this study I will examine whether eChat is a vehicle to assimilate and exchange  information or are the words on the screen  too random to produce a decipherable  message?5) Will chatrooms (as part of an online discourse) create a universal language?

1-d. Research Hypothesis

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 conclusion and suggest areas for further research. 1. That people create a different ‘textual self’ for each chat room environment they are in. 2. That conversation within Chatrooms will change how we come to know others.3.  That observational study of chatroom conversation can capture some of the adaptations of conversational behaviours 4. That this work will assist in an understanding of how, and why, Chatrooms are an important area in which to create a new conversational research theory.That 'chat' does not differs from natural conversation1) 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’ ( 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...’ from 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 will use a variety of chatroom 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' It will be interesting to see if the  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 will assist in an 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’ will ‘borrow’ 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

1-e. Personal interest in researching online conversation

This thesis is a study of the use of text-based communication as it is used in chatroom in the period between 1998 and 2002, the life of this thesis. My interest in electronic communication is first and for most an interest in communication. How do people exchange, relate and create meaning?  Having ‘done the ‘60s’ in the United States of America, with all its ‘bits and pieces’ I came in contact with others who were interested in a global mindset.  I lived in Greenwich Village in New York City in the mid-1960s.  Listening to Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Joan Biaz, Alan Ginsberg (I read my own poetry with him at St. Marks Place Church on East 9th Street) and being part of the great wave of protesters (we marched on Washington DC to stop the Viet Nam War, to stop segregation, to give women more rights. I marched for so many things I forgot what we were marching for at times) and rebelling with so many others of the time against the ‘way-it-was’ I had a conviction, as did so many others of the time that there was a better way.  Being young and idealistic I followed the trek of those who were seeking change to San Francisco in 1967.  There was the summer of love and the world had changed, or at least to us it had.In 1969 I found myself in Hawaii and before long had joined a new age cult – the Holy Order of Mans.  This Order was an extension of my beliefs and searching that there was a better way.  It was all about communication, integration of the world mind, an ‘Over-Soul’, the connection of the parts to make a whole.  But the world did not live up to my idealistic sense that we are all one that we could all communicate that we could exchange ideas and that our differences were just part of what made us all humans. At the same time some of us were thinking there was a whole, there were others who saw the parts as being subservient to the whole – they became the multinational companies: Nike, McDonalds, Woolworth and the world became a market place for western products.  Globalisation now threatens the planet with a homogenized worldview.  A post colonial Christian American driven capitalistic system has reduced the individual to a product. We have groups attempting to establish a one-world-religion (which would obliterate the individual cultural ways of viewing creation), one-world medias, one-world sports lines of clothing, we have the Euro dollar which could eventually become a world dollar and English (the United States corrupted version) becoming the language of choice (though Spanish is coming on strong). We have one ‘Super Power’, policing the world and using its own moral codes and values systems, which are multinational company driven, as a basis to attack other countries and cultures.Out of this mixture of 1960’s idealism, multinational marketing and globalisation came a need to communicate with every one.  The paradigm became ‘we are the world’.  With the growth of the personal computer, the Internet and then chatrooms, my once idealistic pursuit of communication with different mindsets and various cultures became a reality. After a study of 3CS:5-years of astrology, metaphysics, literature, art, philosophy and many other aspects of life on earth I felt as if I had found what I had always been looking for; a way of turn taking in conversation where there was not a dominance of culture, gender, philosophy, nationality or age.  There are many researchers who are or have investigated why people use chatroom.  I am interested in what happens on a linguistic level in chatroom.  It is through linguistics, the use of words that we establish and create and interpret meaning. ‘We seem as a species to be driven by a desire to make meanings: above all, we are surely Homo significans - meaning-makers…’ (Chandler 2001).  I am not concerned with gender, age, nationality, and race or beliefs of people in a turn-taking situation.  These are topics for future research. It is what is said that conveys the message.  The words of the person is paramount. What the ‘speaker’ look like or is wearing or what day of the week it is does not matter. 

1-f. The purpose of examining online conversation

Cloud Callout: messageConversation is very much about negotiation.  Negotiation in conversation is based on turn taking.  This research on electronic communication is being undertaken at the same time as chatrooms are being used more. It is during a time of change in chatroom using and rapidly evolving software.  The nature of chatrooms will undoubtedly change from the way it is discussed in this thesis to what it will become in the future.I am interested in the online interactive environment, its departure from the culture of a print milieu and the affect of these changes on both the reader and the writer. As online chatroom and discussion groups grow in popularity and importance and as virtual conversations increase, so too will the analysis of these environments, both in depth and in range. This thesis proposes that through the interactive forms of the day society changes.  Further, down I discuss the evolution of communication forms, from runners carrying messages thousands of years ago to smoke signals and drum beating to the telegraphy and telephone to our present day digital systems.  The more accessible communication becomes to everyone, the quicker ideas can be exchanged and meaning developed and shared. Through the exchange of ideas and information, we become better informed and we are able to make decisions, which affect not only ourselves but also the world in which we live.  It is within an analysis of how ‘chatrooms’, as the latest form of communication ‘works’ or does not ‘work’ that I will explore electronic conversation as a force of social change.All areas of communication are worth examining.  Communication primarily requires speaking, listening and awareness. One must plan to communicate; there is effort involved.  Successful communication does not “just happen”.  Simply put, communication is sharing information, to make known to another person, to transmit, exchange and impart information.  Understanding and giving meaning to what is communicated is necessary in order to progress.  At the two ends of communication are the message sender and the message receiver.  The classical conception of communication was that it travelled in one direction from a sender and

was immediately understood by the receiver: sender                                   receiver . This model has become more


complex as we realize that what is clear in one’s mind, may be distorted by physical, cultural or other interferences. These factors can alter the message so that it is understood differently by the receiver than by the sender. A message can become quite scrambled and misinterpreted in a chatroom, rendering the communication less effective. This study will examine the communicated message within the online environment and will seek to find how meaning is shared within chat rooms. I will investigate one area of communication; but one which is changing the way people communicate worldwide, that of communicating within chatroom. There are many theories used to understand communication as complex forms. Some function as umbrellas for more specific communication theories such as Communication Metatheory[9], Cybernetics[10] and Complexity Theory[11].  As outlined in my methodology section, I will be using seven particular case studies and focussing on one specific theory of discourse per study. The World Wide Web is one of many Internet-based communication systems [12] and the primary source of this thesis. There is significant value in analysing current forms of communication as they change the way humans communicate in the future.  Communication in chatroom is based on ‘speaking’ and understanding very short, usually packets of five or less groups of words, often misspelt or abbreviated, to decipher meaning from.

World Total

513.41 million



4.15 million


143.99 million


154.63 million

Middle East


Canada & USA

180.68 million

Latin America

25.33 million

 More and more people are communicating through electronic-online services.  It  is    difficult to estimate the number of users online. A large number of surveys, many claiming to be ‘official’, using all sorts of measurement parameters, are available. According to Nua Internet ( and surveys noted over the last two years, an estimated 513.41 million usersare on line as of August, 2001.  Eighty-four percent of US Internet users have contacted an online group (Nov 01 2001), according to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. ( Pew Internet also reports that of the 59 million Americans who go online daily, 49% send email, 10% send instant messages and 4% use a chatroom daily. More than 2.4 million Americans or about five million world-wide are in a chatroom communicating daily. In 3/04/2002 there were more than 115 million registered ICQ users around the world (  Other research results in January 2002 have give these figures:  Between 6% (Chilton Research) and 35% (American Psychological Convention) of online users participate in chats. Roughly 4% of all online time is spent in chatting (Price Waterhouse). 88% of teenagers dubbed online chat "cool" in a recent survey by the author of Growing Up Digital. See also Internet Demographics and eCommerce Statistics for Internet traffic usage statistics.



1-g. Current modes of online communication




Point-to-Mass * 1

Synchronous communication






Instant Messaging



Synchronous communication









Synchronous communication






SMS (mobile phone messages)



Synchronous communication









Asynchronous communication








Point-to-Point * 2

Asynchronous communication






Message Boards



Asynchronous communication






Usenet / Newsgroups



Asynchronous communication







‘Although the boundaries can blur, there are basically five  different forms of Internet Chat: telnet[13], IRC[14], web chat[15], direct chat[16], and world chat[17].  All of these mediums are different ways of allowing people from all over the world to come together and interact on a real-time basis.’ (Cyberdude[18]).There are many ways to communicate online, and a useful grouping is whether the communication is delayed or instant.   Textual behaviour appears different, based on two factors.  Firstly, is there time to respond and structure a response as one can with email, or secondly, does instant communication occur as it does in chatrooms; with no time for thinking or correcting the speech.There is also a difference between point-to-point communication; when a message sent by one person is sent to only one person, and ‘point-to-mass’  when the message sent by one person can be sent to many others simultaneously.  How one responds to messages may be a result of whether the communication is ‘point-to-point’ or ‘point-to-mass’.Also, as more devices become available that are chat enabled, the list on the right will grow.  Some of the devices currently available to use as a source of just ICQ chat are: Cell Phones (A person can send messages to cell phones from ICQ. One can also send text messages from the Web to cell phones and receive and send SMS. Web-based ICQ, with the ability to launch ICQ from any computer enabling millions of ICQ users to communicate with each other easily.  ICQ email provides emails directly to ICQ users. ICQ phone - PC to PC and PC to phone with ICQ makes it easy to call anyone in the world with ICQ.  Also available are Internet Telephony and Chat Requests, Online Phone Book, Dialler Hand-helds and ICQ for the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant is any wireless device for keeping calendars, addresses and Web access).- 1 Chat rooms can also be ‘point-to-point’ if one enters a private room and communicates with only one other person; however, in this study I am using the multilogue turn-takings as these can be easily logged by entering the chatroom. Ø     - 2 Email can be ‘point-to-mass’ by sending messages to many mailboxes. Discussion groups operate around the concept of threads, where a topic takes on a life of its own. Even within the topic chosen there can be offshoots and there are a growing number of studies into discussions within discussion groups. The Internet has thousands of special interest discussion groups, each individually managed by an Internet server known as a list server. On one day, Tuesday, 25 September 2001, two-weeks after the attacks in New York City on the World Trade Centre,  (see:

) there were more than one-half-million (552761) messages posted to the CNN community discussions area in reference to that day’s events. Discussion groups will not be examined in this thesis but to date (Saturday, 26 January 2002) there have not been any studies on linguistics within discussion groups that I am aware of, making this a good area for future research.Instant Messenger protocols, such as Yahoo Instant Messenger, ICQ and PalTalk have two voices at one time, but not necessarily following one another. People still "talk" at the same time. One does not always wait for a response. If two people are typing rapidly back and forth, they can return and respond to something which was said whilst the other was typing. Here someone steers the conversation into a particular area of discussion, establishing, in CA terms, the "flow" or speaking space for a topic. Unlike chatroom and discussion groups no one else can enter the dialogue. Here the "talk-text" dynamic comes especially close to that isolated in Conversational Analysis, so that IM can operate as a foundational text for other Net forms.  I examine Instant Messenger in Case Study 7 of this thesis.INSTANT MESSENGER Chatroom and IM especially are reader/writer driven at the same time as asynchronous communication [19]. Often there is the feeling that one is writing and reading at the same time. In chatroom this can become chaotic. What differentiates "speakers" within chatroom is their logon names. If there are several voices, none following any particular protocol, all "talking" at once, the question becomes, "what is being said?" and at the same time "what is being heard?"

1-h. Theories of discourse analysis

Because of the developing diversity and its clear formation around both textual and conversational practices, this study will encompass several linguistic descriptive and analytical methods. The major researchers in the theoretical fields below will be discussed in the literary section and the reason for each theory used will be discussed in the methodology section.Reception and Reader - Response Theory and Reader Theory’ (Umberto Eco (1979, 1986, 1995), J. Kristeva (1980), Michael Payne (1993). See Case Study 1

.Speech Act Theory (Jurgen Habermas (1989), John Rogers Searle (1965, 1969, 1976), Deborah Schiffrin (1987), Terry Winograd (1986). See Case Study 2

.Discourse Analysis (Norman Fairclough (1989, 1995), Bakhtin. See: Case Study 3

. Conversation Analysis (Diana Slade and Suzanne Eggins (1997), Donald Allen and Rebecca Guy (1974), John Austin (1962), Erving Goffman (1959), H Sacks (1974), E. Schegloff (1974), Deborah Tannen (1989). See Case Study 4

.Semiotics and Pragmatics (Chandler, Barthes, Halliday, Saussure, M. A. K. Halliday (1978), S.C. Levinson), Nofsinger (1991). See Case Study 5

.Linguistic schools of thought: See: Case Study 6

. Computer Mediated Communication including: Electronic Communicated Analysis, Computational Linguistics and Text and Corpus Analysis: Charles Ess (1996), Michael Stubbs (1996) See Case Study 7

.Together these methods will provide sufficient range to enable me to develop a method for chatroom analysis, which will encompass more of its attributes than is possible within any one of the existing frames.The primary data corpus for my research will come from chatroom.  Chatrooms exist for almost any subject imaginable.  According to Eastgate hypertextual author Stuart Moulthrop (1997), Internet Relay Chat ("IRC") is a computerised version of citizen's band radio. It is also similar to talk back radio, community forums and is similar to every form of meeting since recorded history.  The only difference is that the physical cues available in sight of the "speaker" are missing. IRC is the most used online chat software.  Internet Relay Chat gained international fame during the Gulf War in 1991, where IRC users could gather on a single channel to hear updates from around the world as soon as they were released. IRC had similar uses during the Russian coup against Boris Yeltsin in 1993, where IRC users from Moscow were giving live reports about the unstable situation there.

1-h/1. Is electronic talk comparable to verbal talk?                                                                         

Chatroom is close to combining 'spoken' and 'written' language. What was missing in early 1999,were the visual cues, which were provided by the people involved. Computer-mediated-communication currently is a narrow-bandwidth technology and it will be another decade before world wide usage of fibre optics will be available to carry videos and the amount of data needed to enable full communication world wide. (Technology Guide

 26/01/2002). Much of the information we obtain in face-to-face interaction is from body language, sound (phonetics and phonology), and other physical codes. In narrow-bandwidth communications, such as on the Internet, this information is not transmitted, causing frequent misinterpretation. When cam-recorders are mounted on the top of computers and combined with chatroom 'written' language, and participants can see one another and write at the same time, then we will have another tool to analyse how language between people is exchanged. In the meantime, it is important to assess existing techniques for observation and analysis of the emergent new "talk" of this interactive communicative format.  My study involves recording and analysis of several types of online text environments and the examination of its similarities and differences in relation to conventional texts, and its developing uses.

1-h/2. "Multilogue"

Chatrooms are "organised as "talk-text":Chatrooms with many interactants are multilogue (see Eggins and Slade, p. 24) environments.  Separating these voices as conversation will be a focus of this study (and something of a methodological challenge, involving the creation of new transcription protocols - see below.) IRC (Internet Relay Chat) provides a way of communicating in real time with people from all over the world.  It consists of various separate networks (or "nets") of IRC servers, machines that allow users to connect to IRC.  The largest net is EFnet (the original IRC net, often having more than 32,000 people at once). Once connected to an IRC server on an IRC network, one is able to join one or more "channels" and converse with others there. On EFnet, there are more than 12,000 channels, each devoted to a different topic.   Conversations may be public (where everyone in a channel can see what you type) or private (messages between only two people, who may or may not be on the same channel).  Conversations rarely follow a sequential pattern - "speakers" following one after the other. There are often jumps to an earlier speaker, or someone beginning their own thread.  This is the first departure point from 'casual conversation'.  When there are many "voices" at once, conversation becomes chaotic.  The only way to follow who is "talking" is through the log-on names, such as in Example I: Janis, dammit, steven, 1love. To analyse conversation between two "speakers" I need to cut and past the "speakers" I wish to analyse.  Even then it is not always clear who is speaking to whom, unless the "speaker" names the addressee in their message. The speech is then, seemingly inevitably, a "multilogue" or multi-directional system, rather than the more conversationally organised "dialogue" we find in print text.It is in the history of any particular communication that the utterances can be studied for their mappings [20]. For example, grammar could be derived from distributional analysis of a corpus of utterances without reference to meaning, and I have done that in several of my case studies (see Case Study 5  The World Wide Web brings new ways of engaging in conversation which are emerging with the growing wide spread use of computers as a form of communication. How much people begin to rely on the Internet as a source of communication will determine much of our future ability to communicate in person to person conversation.  For example, there have been surveys suggesting that the amount of time some people spend on the Internet in chat rooms is disproportionate to the amount of time they communicate face to face with others [21].  The impact these forms of communication will have on future interactions between people is just beginning to be studied. Verbal language was the first major step toward interconnection of humans which led to a fundamental change in the way we collected knowledge about the world. With symbolic language people are able to share experiences and learn about others’ lives as well as share information on their own. Chat rooms are one area of this rapid evolution in the sharing of minds. Language has allowed us to become a collective learning system, building a collective body of knowledge that far exceeds the experience of any individual, but which any individual could, in principle access. We have made the step from individual minds to a collective mind. (The GLOBAL BRAIN and the Evolution of the WWW

). Concepts such as ‘the human superorganism’ and ‘global brain’ first appeared in modern form in Herbert Spencer's The Principles of Sociology (1876)[22] and the Internet is now regarded as a global brain (see also Russell (1983). Russell proposed a Global Brain that might emerge from a worldwide network of humans who were highly connected through communications. There are many articles that appear in search engines on this topic as of3/04/2002, whereas there were only two or three articles on conversation on the Internet as being linked with a global brain concept a year ago. This shows the interest of academics, philosophers, and researchers in this topic.The most common form of Internet communication, E-mail, is replacing a lot of traditional letter writing and its primary difference is the rapidity of response expected when an e-mail is sent. Unlike letters, which often are not answered for a varying period of time, it is assumed that e-mail will be responded to within a day or two. For example, if we do not respond to an e-mail within a day or two from a friend, another e-mail will prompt us to respond, inquiring why we had not responded yet. Therefore, e-mails tend to be answered in haste with at least a short response, maybe even just a "got your e-mail, am too busy to answer now, but will in a few days".  Though e-mail can be a form of turn-taking with people writing back and forth immediately after receiving correspondence, it does not provide the conversational turn-taking choices chatroom does.  Statistics of email usage and behaviour are varied and often the reliability of surveys found on the Internet are questionable. A few studies of computer dialogue are beginning to appear on the Internet. I will note studies in progress and completed theses on this topic in the Literature Review section. A study of computer conferencing for instructional purposes[23] has categorized ‘on line’ study by students as asynchronous or synchronous. Asynchronous study allows time for reflection between interactions. Synchronous interactions allows real-time interactive chats or open sessions among as many participants as are online simultaneously.Chatroom conversations are more hastily interactive  than e-mail. Conversations in chatroom are rarely planned out, making this environment an ideal source of casual conversation analysis. Chatroom conversations are informal, often experimental and frequently used for entertainment and escape. (Rheingold). This will be further elaborated in my case studies. Virtual conversations, as they are in chat rooms, can have little to no real life significance.  For example, in some chatrooms, participants experiment with various personas, as they are not seen, heard or known by others in the chatroom. I will not explore this aspect of chat room behaviour. However, one who has written on this in length is Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Sociology of Science Program in Science, Technology, and Society Massachusetts Institute of Technology

To bring into being an "electronic interactive conversational analysis" requires a cross over between print and conversation-based analyses and theorisations.  Electronic digital technologies lack a sense of linearity; in fact, they are based on a nonlinear structure that tends to facilitate a more associative way of organizing information, e.g., hypertext. The prime example studied in this research is chatroom where there can be multiple conversations involving multiple subjects simultaneously.  While print media works as a flow of conversation or writing directed in an organised progression, online conversations fragment multi-directionally.  Conversation on the World Wide Web, whether in chatroom, Instant messenger (IM), discussion groups, or even in role-playing games such as MUDs and MOOS involve two new paradigm shifts.  Firstly, there is the shift from print to computerization.  Print relies on hierarchy and linearity. Computer interactivity can be either asynchronous or synchronous.  Instant Messenger, ICQ, and PalTalk, have only two voices at one time, but not necessarily following one another.  People still "talk" at the same time.  One does not always wait for a response.  If two people are typing rapidly back and forth, they can return and respond to something which was said whilst the other was typing. 

Asynchronous communication is communication taking place at different times or over a certain period of time. Several currently used examples are: E-mail, electronic mailing lists, e-mail based conferencing programs, UseNet newsgroups and messaging programs. Asynchronous communication requires using computer conferencing programs and electronic mailing lists which reside on a server that distributes the messages that users send to it. Any computer user with e-mail and a connection to the Internet can engage in asynchronous communication. Web-based conferencing programs that distribute many messages, or messages containing attachments, require more system power and a current model computer with a sound card and speakers and a fast connection to the Internet. The computer should also be running Netscape 6 or Internet Explorer 5+ and should be Java enabled.

Synchronous communication is communication taking place at the same time. Several voices can be going at once orthere can be multiple conversations involving multiple subjects happening at the same time (Aokk, 1995; Siemieniuch & Sinclair, 1994). Several currently used examples are: Chat rooms, MUDs (multiple-user dungeons), MOOs (multiple object orientations), videoconferencing (with tools like White Pine’s CUSeeMe and Microsoft's NetMeeting) and teleWeb delivery systems that combine video programs with Web-based resources, activities and print-based materials.

To use synchronous communication in a text-based environment one can have the chat room on their server or the chat room can be imported into their Web site as an applet. Real-time interactive environments like MUDs and MOOs are Unix-based programs that reside on servers.  In both kinds of synchronous communication, users connect with the help of chat-client software and log in to virtual "rooms" where they communicate with each other by typing onscreen. Because MOOs and chat rooms frequently attract many users, it is advisable to access them using a high-end computer and a fast connection to the Internet.  The computer should also be running Netscape 6   or Internet Explorer 5+ and should be Java enabled. MOOs and chat rooms often have their own sound effects to denote communicative gestures (such as laughter and surprise); to use or hear them, the computer must be equipped with a sound card and speakers. A second paradigm shift is currently taking place around the changing environment of on line discourse, parallel to the shift from print to the Internet.  Within the Internet interactive environment, there is a shift from e-mail and discussion groups, to chatroom and "Instant messenger" and ICQ.  E-mail and discussion groups are more or less a one-way road. For example, one usually waits for a return e-mail, which often is a complete response with several paragraphs: a considered and edited "textual" piece.  Conversely, chatroom environments are composed of one or two lines of text from one person followed by a response of one or two lines from another person.  Chatrooms thus consists of spontaneous casual conversation, while discussion groups are e-mailed "texted" responses, which are usually thought out and spell and grammar checked before they are sent to the discussion group. Discussion groups, I hypothesize, are even more controlled and planned than emails, more "textual". In other words, the Internet has already produced its own set of "text-talk" genres and practices.  The online universe of discourse is rapidly diversifying.Chatrooms have limitations, that conversations in which physical speech is produced do not have. Talk in chatroom is limited to short phrases.  Rarely will there be more than several words written at a time by a 'speaker'.  Looking at a sampling of a dozen chatrooms and hundreds of entrances, I found that there was an average of 7.08 words per turn.  Within that sampling, 25 percent of words consisted of two letters, and 20 percent consisted of three letter words.  Eighty-three percent of words used in chatroom conversations were five letters or less.  The way we will communicate will change and is now changing.  As we are faced with more choices and more to do all the time, communication will become more concise, or the speaker will be left behind.We can only speculate at how this will affect the future way people speak with one another . For example, will people only ‘speak’ with those people who understand what they are saying in five or so words?    Instead of explaining meaning, will conversation only continue with those who grasp what is being said immediately? In the rapid pace of chatroom ‘talk’ this seems to be the case. There is also the danger that people can become poor communicators.  Text is ‘spoken’ often to no one in particular with the apparent hope that someone, somewhere will grasp the utterance and respond appropriately. Chatrooms do not demand use of proper grammar as a conversation in person would.  Spelling, because of the rapid rate of scrolling text, seems to be an unimportant aspect. Abbreviations become important.  It is much quicker to write BTW than to write ‘by the way’.  All chatroom talk could be considered to be informal speech. Will we stop using prepositions? In a chatroom one may say, "he'll hit sixty in cincy...maybe sixty five" (turn #85 in baseball chat). When can such a statement be made? Without knowing the context, there is no meaning. As I will explore later in this thesis, words do produce meaning, however the difficulty in Chatroom is not only finding meaning within any 'talk' but to have others understand or follow what we mean.  However, as my individual case studies will show, it is the particular chat room; its environment, which will give the greatest opportunity to find meaning within the utterance. Chatrooms do provide structure. There is an architectural setting, an existing space.  There are rooms, towers, Plato's cave, cathedrals, cities, states, nations, worlds and universes.Other differences between online and face-to-face conversation are  understanding what is being said  when the cues are deleted? Who holds the power?  Can conversation even exist without knowing anything about the participants? My research says yes!  People are fully able to communicate as long as there are structures to communicate within. These structures have a linguistic base, which “stand in” for our categorisation of speakers and will be further explored in the case studies. Two ways in which dialogue can be studied are through grammar and discourse (Eggins & Slade; 1997: p.178). Grammar provides the “nodes” of speech; the constituent mood structures of conversational clauses. In physical interacting conversation, linguistics provides a system of rights and privileges of social roles in culture.  Words very much define the speaker.  However, in electronic 'talk' words do not define social roles as much as they define ideas, or at least a continuum which can evolve into a conversation. This will, over a course of many turn-taking sequences, possibly define enough about a speaker to have some awareness of their social structures such as beliefs, and sometimes nationality, culture and standing.  I will explore this notion of trying to ‘know’ more about a speaker from the words they use in individual case studies.  Of course, it is only a guess as we can not really know much about someone whom we can not see or hear, especially if they reveal little of themselves.The evolution of language from early utterances to chatroom dialogueThe study of language is one of the oldest branches of systematic inquiry, tracing back to classical India and Greece, with a rich and fruitful history of achievement.[24]  (Noam Chomsky).  What has been neglected thus far is a linguistic study of one of our most current forms of electronic communication, chat rooms which offer real-time interaction between participators at any place and any time. The basic building blocks of communication have changed little, but the methods through which we are able to use our linguistic abilities to convey ideas has changed drastically.  From the era of pictographs of accounts written on clay tablets in Sumeria 5500 years ago, to the first evidence of writing during the Protoliterate period (Sumerian civilization, to about 28 B.C.)it can be seen that forms of communication had advanced. For example, by 2800 B.C., the use of syllabic writing had reduced the number of signs from nearly two thousand to six hundred.  (1) For the next few thousand years communication exchange has evolved slowly.We cannot know what the world was like before human language existed.  For tens of thousands of years, language has developed to what is our modern grammar and syntaxes. 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 chat rooms, language may be going through a new and rapid development.  Chat room communication separates from traditional language through word corruption and its use of abbreviations and emoticons. I will address these changes in language usage in the discussion chapter of this thesis.The first humans exchanged information through crude grunts and hand signals.  Gradually a complex system of spoken words and visual symbols were invented to represent new language. Earliest forms of telecommunications consisted of smoke signals, ringing a bell or physically transporting a message between two places. However, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, communication codes for meaning were exchanged at a greater distance across time and began to become accessible to more users. A standard postal system allowed people to send messages throughout the world in a matter of days.  The development of the telegraph cable including the development of radio made real-time vocal communication over long distances a reality The Internet is the most recent advancement in communication.  It allows us, in a split second, to disseminate a limitless amount of information throughout the globe. All communication involves interaction and thus forms a basis for relationships.  “Throughout the history of human communication, advances in technology have powered paradigmatic shifts…”  (Frick, 1991). Technology changes how we communicate; big shifts in culture cannot occur until the communicative tools are available.  The printing press is an example of this.  Before its invention scribal monks sanctioned by the Church, had overseen the maintenance and hand copying of sacred texts for centuries.  The press resulted in widespread literacy, with books accessible and more affordable for all.  The spread of literacy in turn changed communication, which changed the educational system and the class structure.  There are many different ways of analysing the history of the current dominant communication system.  Whether one studies the historical, scientific, social, economical or the psychological impact of these changes, depends on the analysis of the system. Lisa Jardine in Worldly Goods,  studied the financial and economic forces of change. Elizabeth Eisenstein analysed the social and historical scientific approach, and Marshall McLuhan concentrated on the psychological impact of these changes.Jardine argues that the development from script to print was driven by economic, emerging capitalist markets forces. For example, the letter exchange between merchants who had an increasing need for reliable information related to economic exchange. (Jardine, 1996). McLuhan brought to our attention the psychological impact of changes of the dominant representation systems.  In the Gutenberg Galaxy he focused on the change from manuscript, which according to him was part of an oral society, to print, which transformed it into a visual culture. (McLuhan, 1962). One of the main issues that arises with the shift from manuscript culture, to print, then to online culture, is accessibility.  The more accessible communication is to a society, the more opportunities are present to exchange meaning, or as is often the case in chat rooms, to attempt to exchange meaning.Communication through language is essentially the relationship between what we are processing in our mind and a resultant bodily activity that is perceivable and hopefully understood and interpretable by another person.  Language is about how words are combined through their lexicon and grammar and their semantics and syntax to create meaning. In chat rooms, the written forms are what is important in communication, and the written form is different from speech language. We use chat room language (abbreviations and emoticons included) to pass our mental organisation to another person.  Language has its origins in signs, and chat room ‘speech’ is similar to an origin of language in that communication is based on very short, often misspelt words."No one has proved that speech, as it manifests when we speak, is entirely natural; i.e. that our vocal apparatus is designed for speaking just as our legs were designed for walking.  Language is a convention and the nature of the signs agreed upon does not matter. The vocal organs are as external to language as the electrical devices used in transmitting the Morse Code are to the code itself; and phonation i.e. the execution of sound images, in no way affects the system itself.  How would a speaker take it upon himself to associate the idea with a word-image if he had not first come across the association in an act of speaking?... Language exists in the form of a sum of impressions deposited in the brain of each member of a community, almost like a dictionary of which identical copies have been distributed to each individual ... The bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary ... I can simply say: the linguistic sign is arbitrary, i.e. unmotivated in that it actually has no natural connection with the signified".  De Saussure[25] in the ‘Cours de Linguistique Générale’ SOCIOLOGICAL and psychological perspectives Cyberculture and Cyberstudies [26]Current research analysis of online discourse has been conducted primarily from either a sociological or a psychological perspective.  Recently there has been an increase of studies on online discourse from a linguistic view. Much of this current research will be discussed in the literature review section.Online communities and their interactions, are being explored in the sociological departments of many universities. The University of Southern California is one example of a dedicated study of cyber-communities.  They are investigating the kinds of social spaces and groups people are creating. How is the Internet changing basic concepts of identity, self-government and community? The University of Southern California heads its site with:The Center for the Study of Online Community seeks to present and foster studies that focus on how computers and networks alter people's capacity to form groups, organizations, institutions, and how those social formations are able to serve the collective interests of their members. Each of these social formations can be thought of as some form of community in the broadest sense of the word. research differs from my own "talk-text" focus.  My focus is on the "speech-act,” and the effects of "written conversation.”  Chatrooms are instant, changing communities, which often have no consistent centre, no obvious ideology (unless it is a particular ideological chatroom), and no direction (unless one is assigned and adhered to).  In a sense, chatrooms conversations are similar to a situation when strangers crowd on to an elevator, train or bus, and all begin to converse.  There is usually one who is louder than the rest, one who is funnier, or one who is offended or not interested.  My research project aims to provide one aspect of that set of guidelines.I have visited many university psychology departments on the Internet and have not found one that addresses conversation in chatroom and discussion groups.  E-Mail Virtual Communities such as Storm King's (see notes) are discussed, and the Psychology of Virtual Communities, but otherwise I have not found any published material on how people "speak" and interact within the interactive environments of chatroom, discussion groups, or Instant Messenger.   My work will create a field of textual interactivity for electronic sites, which will take in discourse theories and will include earlier forms of linguistic studies, with their established and rigorous methodologies. For example, in the case study ‘ball-chat’ there is this exchange:

<smith-eric> cinni has already changed rules for jr.<Pizza2man> he'll hit sixty in cincy...maybe sixty five

What do we know from this?  Do we know what the user ‘smith-eric’ was wearing, how old the person was, their gender, beliefs, nationality, location, race; whether they were blind, had one leg, were on the Cover of Playboy last month, or on the FBI’s most-wanted, are they writing from a hospital, prison, in the dessert, or on a houseboat?  We do not even know if ‘smith-eric’ knows ‘Pizza2man’ or likes or dislikes this person.  There is the question of whether cyberspace is even "real" and therefore worthy of study.  To most participators chatrooms are real created space.  People are able to express ideas, ask questions, and make arrangements to meet in the physical. Many of the same experiences can be gained within the chatroom environment as if people were at a meeting, party or at any social gathering; “chatroom are suitable places for developing the self socially, mentally and culturally, as well as shaping the character traits of the self.” (Teo Soo Yee)  Virtual communities can be as important to those who visit the same chatroom as any community in RL (Real Life) would be. An increasing number of essays which discuss virtual communities can be found online.  Many of these essays will be cited in this literature review and as I find more they will be listed at:

. As I am investigating linguistic patterns in chatroom ‘speech’ exchanges I am not overly concerned with who exchanges meaning, i.e. what role the person is playing and whether it is ‘he or she’ ‘talking’ or a made up identity, but rather on how meaning is exchanged.As one of the latest in interaction communication forms to exchange meaning chatroom rules for ‘talk’, though being changed constantly, are beginning to be uniform in what is expected behaviour of the participants.  As will be discussed in the individual case studies, different chat environments may have different rules of ‘talk’.  And just as every social grouping has rules of conversational engagement, online ‘talk’ has to have some order, sometimes more strictly than others,  for discourse to continue. Examples of rules that would be considered standard protocol are on the Xena chat site (

) as well many other sites which discuss Netiquette (a comprehensive one is at:

).  When addressing online conversation, the terms "conversation",  "dialogue", and "discussion", are often used interchangeably. This thesis will attempt to clarify some of the subtle distinctions among them, describe how they work, and present some current research findings regarding both online and face-to-face conversations that take place within our current forms of electronic communication.

1-i. Introduction Bibliography

Bernal, Javier.  “BIG BROTHER IS ON-LINE: Public and Private Security in the Internet”. Issue Six: Research Methodology Online, Daniel (23rd November 2001)  Semiotics: The Basics. Routledge London. New York

Eisenstein, E. L. (1993). The printing revolution in early modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Frick, T. W. (1991). Restructuring education through technology (Fastback Series No. 326). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.Jardine, L. (1996). Worldly goods. London, UK: Macmillan Publishers Ltd.Jellinek and Carr (1996)McLuhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg galaxy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Mumford, L. (1999). "The invention of printing". In Crowley, David; Heyer, Paul (Eds.). Communication in history: technology, culture, society. (pp. 8CS:5-88). New York: Longman.Nobuo, Shimahara. (1990) Chapter 6 ‘Anthroethnography: a methodological consideration’. In Qualitative research in education: focus and methods. Edited by Robert R. Sherman and Rodman b Webb. London: The Falmer Press, pages 76 Rheingold, Howard.Rethinking Virtual Communities”

 Richard C. Freed, and Broadhead Glenn J. "Discourse Communities, Sacred Texts, and Institutional Norms."

College Composition and Communication 38.2 (May 1987): 15CS:4-165.

Russell, P. ``The Global Brain: speculations on the evolutionary leap to planetary consciousness'', Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1983. Sherry , Lorraine;  Billig, Shelley H.; Tavalin, Fern.

Good Online Conversation: Building on Research to Inform Practice


 RMC Research Corporation Denver

, Colorado;Teo Soo Yee In Defence of Chatroom. (



 last accessed Saturday, November 04, 2000.

Chapter 2 Literature Review 


2-a. Literature Review Abstract

The aim of this literature review is to critique the contributions to the fields of discourse analysis and electronic communication. This will develop a study of how the process of exchanging meaning is functionally motivated within electronic 'talk'. This literature review will aid in establishing the theoretical framework and methodological focus needed for an original contribution to dialogue on electronic talk as a system of social meaning making within cyberculture. As well I hope to create a semiotic model for 'Natural Language' within the chatroom milieu. The majority of my literature review will be based on online essays or discussions.  Not all articles/essays cited will be on line for future references.  This is a problem with the way the Internet currently is. There have been discussions to archive everything on the Internet but no complete archive of everything on the Internet currently exists. To overcome this problem I will include the complete works cited as appendixes for the final thesis presentation if I have received permission from the author.  This literature review will be divided into three sections.  The first section will discuss the literature on electronic or online conversation; the second section will review the literature on discourse analysis theories and the third section will review the literature coming from online studies at universities on online communication. There will however be overlaps between established disciplines of analyses and current "field literature". For example, the theorist Jean Baudrillard is both a central theorist of computer mediated culture and is active on the Internet. 

2-b. Introduction to the Literature review

I am interested in the on-line interactive environment, its departure from the culture of a print milieu and its changes for both the reader and the writer. As on-line chatroom and discussion groups grow in popularity and importance and as these applications increase, so too will the analysing of these environments, in both depth and range.My review of current literature has not found adequate print material directly on chatrooms to pre-dispose these formats within given theoretical positions, however this changes weekly with online essays, thesis and articles as more people explore this topic. To establish means for rigorous analysis, I propose therefore to "export" my investigation into the established linguistic methodologies of work on discourse - and especially on conversation. There is a growing body of print material on hypertext, the Internet and the World-Wide-Web but there has been little work done on analysis of interactive on-line text, which is seemingly borderless, as it is in on-line dialogues. Therefore, my field literature as of mid-2000 borrows greatly in the first instance from previous research into MUDs[27], MOOs, ICQ, and the IRC generally, as I have found few research studies specifically on chatroom conversations from a linguistic view. In the second instance I will borrow from the already established fields of Conversational Analysis, Computer Mediated Communication and Discourse Analysis.  This literature review is an overview of both printed and online literature, each case study will highlight a particular theory of linguistic investigation and each case study will have a literature review on the particular theory used for that case study.Several academics have explored the online communicational milieu, such as Anna Cicognani[28], who has built her Ph.D. around the design of text based virtual worlds (see Cicognani 1998b) and Dr. Sherry Turkle[29] who looks at computer "talk" from her clinical psychologist's perspective (1995). The field literature is growing, with several people a month e-mailing me that they are doing post-graduate study into computer-mediated communication. I will include, and hopefully network with these people to enrich this study. There are several unpublished theses and papers that explore on-line environments such as MUDs and MOOs and discussion groups, but these are mainly from a sociological or psychological perspective or in Cicognani's case, on the architecture of MUDs (1998): (Bechar-Israeli (1999), Camballo (1998)[30], Cicognani (1996, 97, 98, 99), Cyberrdewd (1998)[31], Hamman (1996, 97, 98, 99)[32], Turkle (1996, 97, 98, 99), Paul ten Have (1999)[33], Murphy & Collins (1999)[34], There is a growing body of on-line journals (zines) which contribute to cyberculture, such as cybersociology at

. I will review various online linguistic research groups online in the section below ONLINE GROUPS.

2-c. Definitions of CHAT

Definitions of ’CHAT’ have a wide range of meaning and in regards to how we use the concept of chatting, will define much of how it is used in this thesis.  I will first look at a dictionary definition of ‘chat’ and then at a few definitions of ‘chat’ on the Internet.Webster Dictionary definitions of CHAT and TALK include:

2-a/1. CHAT

CHAT: Informal conversation or talk in an easy familiar manner. ·   Informal. Not of a formal, official, or stiffly conventional nature. Appropriate to everyday life or use,·  Conversation. The interchange through speech of information, ideas, etc.; spoken communication[35] Speech. The act or faculty of speaking; Utterance Utter. To give audible expression to (something) Expression The act or an instance of transforming ideas into words; A manifestation of an emotion, feeling, etc., without words (For example in chat rooms 'emoticons' are used to illustrate emotions; smiling face, frown or symbols such as :) to say one is just kidding or is laughing)Communication, The imparting or exchange of information, ideas, or feelings.

2-a/2. TALK

TALK: To express one's thoughts, feelings, or desires by means of words;  To communicate by other means: lovers talk with their eyes; To exchange ideas (NOTE: it is not until definition 10 that it uses 'to make sounds suggestive of talking'). FAMILIAR: Well known; Frequent or customary; Close, intimate.Several selected Internet definitions of CHAT and TALK include:CHAT: chatting. “On the Internet, chatting is talking to other people who are using the Internet at the same time you are. Usually, this "talking" is the exchange of typed-in messages requiring one site as the repository for the messages (or "chat site") and a group of users who take part from anywhere on the Internet. In some cases, a private chat can be arranged between two parties who meet initially in a group chat. Chats can be ongoing or scheduled for a particular time and duration. Most chats are focused on a particular topic of interest and some involve guest experts or famous people who "talk" to anyone joining the chat. (Transcripts of a chat can be archived for later reference.)”

. Informal.  Most chat on the Internet is considered informal.  Because of the limitations of quickly typing responses at the same time as reading other’s text, it would be close to impossible to carry on a formal dialogue. This is the same as the dictionary usage of appropriate to everyday life or use’.Conversation. Most conversation analysis of face-to-face dialogue is in the tradition of ethnomethodology, which is the careful and detailed study of how people organize their thoughts. The primary concern of conversation analysis is sequential organization, or the ways in which speakers organize their talk turn-by-turn. With an on-line chat there is no organization. Conversations overlap one another in chatrooms, and are easily misinterpreted, this will be explored in depth throughout this thesis. The word "conversation" comes from the Latin word "convertere" -- to turn around. It may also be interpreted as "to take turns". Jellinek and Carr (1996) identified three broad purposes of conversation:Transacting: conducted for the purpose of negotiation or exchange within an existing problem setting;Transforming: conducted when individuals suspend their own personal opinions or assumptions and their judgment of others' viewpoints; andTranscendent: where the purpose is to move beyond or "leap out" of existing mindsets.Within chatrooms we find all three purposes used, often at once.  Transacting or negotiation is more apparent in purpose chatrooms such as in the examples I use of ‘Storm’, ‘astrology’, ‘baseball’ and ‘web-3D’.  As there is more turn taking for a purpose in these, for example, to discover or exchange information participants will often wait for a response.  As when in Case Study 1, Storm, when a person enquires where the location of the hurricane is.

[turn 74] <guest-Tom> does anyone know where floyd isnow

To find out something is a process of negotiation. If no one responds then there is no negotiated response. In this turn taking example above, the answer, to <guest-Tom> could be,

[turn 83] <davesbraves> 120 mi. se of cape look out nc

But maybe the answer is, [turn 103] <Werblessed> In Bladen County Outside of White Lake.

Is the answer to <guest-Tom> number 83 or 103?  It would be assumed that the answer is turn taking number 83 and not 103 just because there are nine turns in between the turn 74 and turn 83 whereas there are 29 turns between turn 74 and turn 103.  However, without reading all the turn takings in between we cannot know for sure as neither <davesbraves> nor <Werblessed> addresses <guest-Tom> by name.

Transforming and Transcendent are the least used of Jellinek and Carr’s three broad purposes of conversation.Speech. As the analysis of chatting in chatrooms is always concerned with digital communication: the virtual rhetoric, the semiotics of multi-media and electronic language the term ‘speech’ is used as chunks of utterances (see next)This network of definitions of the word ‘chat’ and ‘talk’ attempts to capture the complexity of ‘natural conversation’, yet still misses many of the features of observable chatroom conversations. From the above words in bold of the dictionary usage, only the following can be keywords in defining chatroom conversation: informal, communication, talk and familiar. As the dictionary defines the remaining words in their physical usage as speech, these require re-definition to use them in their written form: conversation, speech, utterance and expression. These terms will be re-defined to suit written forms of what traditionally is oral expression. By comparative analyses to the already established meanings for ‘chat’, I hope to arrive at a workable definition for chatroom conversations. This will in turn enable me to establish categories of 'chat behaviour' and link them to existing linguistics and sociological techniques for analysing conversation. I discuss these categories in the methodology section of this thesis as I develop protocols to ‘capture’ Internet dialogue.  I then hope to clarify which categories of Internet chat are excluded from or inadequately explained, in existing methods of analysis, using these in turn to evolve new ways of examining and explaining Internet chatroom behaviour in my Discussion Chapter for this study. There are variations of chatting that are too large in scope for this thesis, such as developing and using avatars to represent oneself and exchanging ‘talk’ within a virtual world.  There are many sites, such as that are dedicated to this form of communication,

.  A brief over-view of current Internet talk modes will assist in clarification of this dimension of the research problem. From what I have gathered on the Internet (and of course there would be thousands of other pages which would define and elaborate on the this) the key researchers in Internet talk and their findings will be discussed in this literature review.From the outset, Internet chat eludes existing definitions of what casual conversation, such as ‘chat’, entails. Differing from a spoken language where one can connect sounds, a person speaking online needs a different kind of grammar.[36] The representation of Internet "conversation" in written text immediately eliminates elements of such conventional understanding as those produced for dictionaries. Language is always evolving[37] and undergoing revisions.  Dictionaries do not accurately reflects any speaker’s lexicon.  In addition, when other languages are taken into consideration, such as for Swahili, Tolkapaya Yavapai and tribal languages with few speakers, ‘dictionaries can only list a tiny proportion of the words a speaker knows and uses, since in those languages words are often comparable to English sentences’. (Fromkin 2000, p. 76). However, we talk to not only enrich ourselves but to ‘pass the time’ or simply to entertain and while away our time. Talking, according to (Schegloff 1987) is “the primordial locus for sociality”. In one form or another we will chat or pass information to another, the means of conveying the words are not as important as the interpretation of the words to the point where we have established an exchange of meaning. 

2-d. MOOS, MUDS, IRC and IM 


The literature review of the three online areas below will be taken from the Internet as well as from print literature. These are areas in which participants 'speak' and answer in the present, creating a sense of 'natural conversation'. Other areas of on-line dialogue, such as E-mails, listserves and discussion groups will not be investigated as each is too general an area and would be studies beyond the scope of this.

2-d/1. MUDs

MUDsYour words are your deeds, your words are your body.” Turkle (95)                          

I am discussing MUDs in passing because they play a large part in the development of what has become the current chatrooms. Also, as most MUDs are textual based, as technology advances more MUDs as well as chat rooms will have a more multimedia presence, people will add sound, graphics and animation to their interactions. I am reviewing only several of many academic writers[38] on MUDs. The most quoted writer in print is Sherry Turkle, other academics (Bartle, Bruckman, Reed ) are writing online and I am reviewing several of their writings which discuss MUDs from a textual aspect. 

MUDs ("Multiple-User Dimension" or "multi-user dungeons") as well as other constructs on the Internet, such as MOOs (MUD-Object-Oriented), MUSE (Multiple-User Dimension), MUCK (Multi-User Collective Kingdom and MUSH (the "H" stands for Hallucination) are computer programs, which users can log into and explore. users read them rather than view them graphically. Action is performed via keyboard while all scenes must be rendered mentally by the players from text typed in during the course of play. Text is an efficient medium online as a few words can evoke a rich response in the mind of the user, and text MUDs rely more on cognition than sensory perception. Spaces and avatars are not viewed on the screen but in the player's mind. ‘Text MUDs are abstract and cognitive since the characters and scenes are conveyed symbolically rather than sensorially.’ (Bartle)

Each user takes control of a computerized persona, avatar, character or object. Once one has created their self they can walk around, chat with other characters, explore dangerous monster-infested areas, solve puzzles, create rooms or worlds and the description of anything. When you join a MUD, you create a character or several characters, you specify each one's gender and other physical and psychological attributes. Other players in the MUD can see its description. It becomes your character's self-presentation. The created characters need not be human and there may be more than two genders. Players create characters who have casual and romantic sex, hold jobs, attend rituals and celebrations, fall in love, and get married.  In many MUDs, players help build the virtual world itself. Using a relatively simple programming language, they can make "rooms" in the MUD, where they can set the stage and define the rules. (Turkle, 1996, p. 54). They are currently used extensively in education as well as for entertainment on the Internet. (A Research-Oriented Link of MUD Resources Collection is available at,

The popularity of MUDs and other role playing areas can be seen by going to some of the larger sites which list many MUDs available on the Internet, such as, which provides a frequently updated list of text-based MUDs, 1400+ MUDs described and listed as of 16 February 2002 and, with 3000+ MUDs described and listed as of 16 February 2002). One of the many sites on offer, is Achaea, [39] which has many towns and cities and people move around through using text. Few academics have published books[40] which refer to MUDs to date (16 February 2002) with Sherry Turkle being the most often cited academic on MUDs. Sherry Turkle’s book, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit Life on the Screen is a book not about computers, but about people and how computers are causing us to re-evaluate our identities in the age of the Internet. Therefore, though it is a useful book to examine the sociological aspects of online communication nothing is discussed as chatroom ‘talk’. Turkle says of MUDs;

 ‘We are using life on the screen to engage in new ways of thinking about evolution, relationships, politics, sex, and the self. When I began exploring the world of MUDs in 1992, the Internet was open to a limited group, chiefly academics and researchers in affiliated commercial enterprises. The MUDders were mostly middle-class college students. They chiefly spoke of using MUDs as places to play and escape, though some used MUDs to address personal difficulties. By late 1993, network access could easily be purchased commercially, and the number and diversity of people on the Internet had expanded dramatically. Conversations with MUDders began to touch on new themes. To some young people, "RL" (real life) was a place of economic insecurity where they had trouble finding meaningful work and holding on to middle-class status. Socially speaking, there was nowhere to go but down in RL, whereas MUDs offered a kind of virtual social mobility. [41]  

Sherry Turkle’s book, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, postulates, ‘the personal computer is an "object-to-think-with" for understanding the changes computers are inducing in our minds.‘  And in Seeing Through Computers, Education in a Culture of Simulation, Turkle writes,

“RL is just one more window, and it's usually not my best one." These are the words of a college student who considers the worlds he inhabits through his computer as real as RL--real life. He's talking about the time he spends "being" four different characters in three different MUDs--multi-user domains--as well as the time he spends doing his homework on the computer. As he sees it, he splits his mind and "turns on one part" and then another as he cycles from window to window on his screen. The computer and the Internet allow him to explore different aspects of himself. As another user puts it, "You are who you pretend to be."

How written words are used to form worlds in MUDs are different from how words are used in chat rooms. In chatrooms there are rarely description phrases or words.[42]  However, once one creates their world then they carry on conversations with others who enter their world or whose world they enter. Turkle does not view Internet Conversation from a linguistic discourse analysis, though on her writings she explores how the textual self may be as significant as the real body self,

In virtual communities I used language to create several characters (some of my biological gender, others not of my biological gender)[43]. My textual actions were my actions- my words made things happen. In different communities I had different routines, different friends, different names. And different on-line personae were expressing different aspects of my self. In this context, the notion of a decentered identity were concretized by experiences on a computer screen. In this environment, people think not so much about identity as about identity crises. What Are We Thinking About When We Are Thinking About Computers? ("What Are We Thinking About When We Are Thinking About Computers?" 1999)

Online there are several academics and researchers who have written on MUDS[44] and as they can be accessed using a search engine I will review only a couple. One such writer, Richard Bartle’s ‘MUDS : Cyberspace Communities[45]  discusses the sociological and psychological effects of MUDs and as such is not useful to examine in this literature review. Another writer on MUDs is Frank Schaap whose thesis         for the degree of Master of Arts Social Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, March 2000, titled, "The Words That Took Us There: Not An Ethnography" is an ethnography, based on research in MUDs.  Schaap, examines MUDs from gender roles, whether they are real or imagined of the players and like many other researchers, e.g. Turkle, discusses the effects of words though there is no way to know who the ‘speakers’ are.

2-d/2. I. M.  

Instant Messengers differ from multilogue chat rooms in that there are only two speakers at a time and therefore the turn taking is not usually as chaotic as it is in areas with many voices. I have discussed Instant Messenger chats in the Introduction to this thesis.


I have not found any studies of Instant Messenger studies.  I will examine IMs when I discuss Case Study 7.

2-d/3. IRC  

The origins of IRC[46] in fantasy play, both in identity projection, competition and sub-cultural cohesiveness, may have consequences for the discourses and discursive relations of IRC culture.

Internet conversation, whether in chatrooms, America Online's Instant messenger (IM), discussion groups, or even in role playing games such as MUDs and MOOS already involves two new paradigm shifts. To bring into being an "electronic interactive conversational analysis" requires a cross over between print and conversation-based analyses and theorisations. Firstly, there is the shift from print to computerization. Print relies on hierarchy and linearity. Computer interactivity can have several voices going at once or a "synchronous communication" (Murphy and Collins in Communication Conventions in Instructional Electronic Chats on-line at:

). A prime example is in chatrooms where there can be multiple conversations involving multiple subjects happening at the same time (Aokk, 1995; Siemieniuch & Sinclair, 1994). Discussion groups too operate around the concept of threads, where a topic takes on a life of its own, and even within the topic chosen there can be offshoots. Instant Messenger has only two voices at one time, but not necessarily following one another. People still "talk" at the same time. One does not always wait for a response. If two people are typing rapidly back and forth, they can return and respond to something which was said whilst the other was typing. (See examples four and five.) While print media works on a flow of conversation or writing directed to an organised progression, on-line conversations fragment into multi-directionality.

A second paradigm shift is taking place around the notion of "discourse", parallel to the shift from print to the Internet (see Landow 1992, pp. CS:1-11). Within the Internet interactive environment there are further developments taking place. Recently there has been a shift from e-maiI and discussion groups to chatrooms and "Instant messenger" ("IM"). E-mail and discussion groups are more or less a one-way road.

Because of this developing diversity and its clear formation around both textual and conversational practices, this study will encompass several linguistic methods. The major methods used will be Conversational Analysis (CA), Speech Act Theory (SA) and Discourse Analysis (DA), but will include aspects of Reading Theory, Text and Corpus Analysis, Computer Mediated Communication theories (CMC), Linguistics and Pragmatics. Together these methods will provide sufficient range to enable me to develop a method for chatroom analysis, which will encompass more of its attributes than is possible within any one of the existing frames.



ESTABLISHED THEORIES AND METHODS OF DIALOGUE ANALYSIS  There are many literary theories; so many that theorist Joseph Natoli has labelled them a “theory carnival”, (Natoli, 1987, 5, 8, 13, 22) by which the individual chat room Case Studies could be analysed by, however, I have chosen only a few, and I explain my purpose in choosing each theory in the individual Case Studies. Literary theories are becoming more scientific and specialist according to theorist Terry Eagleton, in Literary Theory” An Introduction, he says, “… as North American society developed over the 1950s, growing more rigidly scientific and managerial in its modes of thought, a more ambitious form of critical technocracy seemed demanded.” (p. 91).

"The search for a theoretical metadiscourse has so far yielded only a proliferation of sub-discourses that shows no sign of consolidating into a common language and methodology comparable to that which lends a semblance of coherence to the practices of science and some credence to the notion of a scientific community." (Felperin, 1985. p. 2)

The theories discussed below are expanded on in the Methodology section of this thesis as well as in the Individual Case Studies. Furthermore, the individual case studies will ‘borrow’ from these theories in an attempt to find a comparative linguistic theory to examine chat room talk with. I will be reviewing literature in the following fields in order to find gaps in which my individual Case Studies will fit. I will evaluate the work and show the relationships between different theories. I will demonstrate how the methodology relates to chatroom investigation. I have chosen to review the literature in already established disciplines of conversational analysis first. Thus the methodology from Conversational Analysis[47] (CA); Speech Act Theory[48] (SA); Discourse Analysis[49] (DA); Reading Theory[50]; Computer Mediated Communication[51] (CMC) which includes; Electronic Communicated Analysis; Computational Linguistics; Text and Corpus Analysis; Pragmatics; Semiotics[52] and Schools of linguistic theory, such as; Prague School of linguistics[53], Dependency grammar[54], Tagmemics[55], Stratification grammar[56], Systemic linguistics[57]  and Optimality Theory[58], will be used to establish techniques of reading and speech within chatrooms. Then I will review the 'field literature' and I will apply the methodologies from these already established disciplines to my findings to establish a specific "chatroom analysis". Within the methodology of each individual Case Study I will research the elements of differences and similarities in conversation between Internet chat and face-to-face conversation. It is within these areas of difference that my study will add to the new growing body of computer mediated understanding related to social dialogue. What each offers to analysis of computer mediated conversation will be discussed below. In the meantime, it is important to consider how computer technologies have been altering conventional concepts of what "chat" is. For example, the non face-to-face dialogues and the immediacy of conversations have already re-defined communication.

CHANGING COMMUNICATIVE ANALYSIS PERSPECTIVES How chatroom and Instant Messenger (IM) conversations become constructed will, I believe, lead outward from the existing regulatory systems of Conversational Analysis (CA) into an examination of how "speech" is differently developed within interactive multivoiced (Eggins & Slade; p.20) environments. I will include research into broader discussions of the "global and macroconstructive" elements, (Poole, 1999: p. 45) using the textual theorists Mikhail Bakhtin (1981) and Julia Kristeva (1980) and their focus on "intertextuality", to investigate the layering of text on text for the production of new texts within established formats. I will also use the hypertextual theorists George Landow (1987, 88, 92, 94,97), and David Bolter (1998), to focus postmodern/poststructuralist theories onto electronic text cultures. This I consider a necessary corrective to tendencies existing within structural linguistic practice, seeking regulated and predictable behaviours "controlled" within language or text practice. Early observations of Internet talk/text behaviour suggests a less regulated, more multiple and diverse set of talk and text forms.  ESTABLISHED ANALYTICAL THEORIES

In order to establish a method of analysis of chatroom conversation I will examine the following already established forms of dialogue analysis. I will show why each theory is either useful or inadequate for this study. The main contributors and theorists in each field will be noted and their work cited in this section of the review of literature.

Major theoretical studies have examined conversation as interaction between participants with conversation understood as spoken communication. One primary characteristic of conversation is that it is fully interactive - at least two people must participate in it, and they exchange messages in a real-time basis. Participants take turns in exchanging these messages, so conversation is fundamentally a sequential activity (Nofsinger 1991: p.3). I am extending 'speech' to include on-line dialogue as it exists in chat rooms. On-line interactivity has similarities to speech in its notion of immediate turn taking and therefore differs from other written forms of electric or physical communication such as e-mails, letter writing etc. There is a sense of virtual speech and especially turn taking between participants. There are also significant differences, which this research aims to isolate, and analyse.

2-e/1. Conversational Analysis (CA)

will be used in Case Study 4 and in Case Study Four’s Literature Review the literature in this field will be discussed.

Theorists/writers: Diana Slade and Suzanne Eggins (1997), Donald Allen and Rebecca Guy (1974), John Austin (1962), Erving Goffman (1959, 71, 74 81), Robert Nofsinger (1991), H Sacks (1974), E. Schegloff (1974), Deborah Tannen (1989).

Current Conversational Analysis (CA) builds on the earlier works of the American sociological movement of the 1970s, most notably that derived from the works of Harvey Sacks (1972), in collaborations with Emmanuel Schegloff (1974) and Gail Jefferson (1974) in their work in ethnomethodology (1972, 1974, 1984, 1992). Sacks's major studies into CA were in the early 1970s whilst teaching at the Linguistic Institute, University of Michigan.

Sacks, Jefferson and Schegloff's central concern was to determine how individuals experience, make sense of, and report their interactions. I will explore how Sacks's CA can detect change in the rules of engagement in chatrooms where conversation is moved from an oral environment to an on-line environment. I will discuss a series of methods to determine who is "leading" in the conversation in the methodology section below.

In CA, the data consists of tape recordings of natural conversation, and their associated transcriptions. These are then systematically analysed to determine what properties govern the way in which a conversation proceeds. The approach emphasizes the need for empirical, inductive work, and in this it is sometimes contrasted with 'discourse analysis', which has often been more concerned with formal methods of analysis, such as the nature of the rules governing the structure of texts (Eggins & Slade, 1997: p.56). My recordings of "natural conversation" within chatrooms will be through the saving of conversations in the program,


 which I will then regard as conversational analysis does its transcripts, and study for patterns of turn-taking, speech patterns and conversational regulation.

Sociologist G. H Mead (1934) and philosophers John Austin (1962) and J. R. Searle (1969) carried out studies into verbal communication preceding the work of Sacks and his followers. (Their work will be expanded on in Speech Act Theory below). Whilst Mead looked at conversation from a sociological perspective (symbolic interaction theory), Austin and Searle (the performative or pragmatic and illocutionary element in meaning) drew attention to the many functions performed by utterances as part of interpersonal communication. By examining and adding these theories of functions with the theories below to a chatroom lexicology, I will establish further dimensions of an electronic theory of dialogue.

I will use recent up-dated theorization by Suzanne Eggins and Diana Slade in their book Analysing Casual Conversation (1997) as a guide to analyzing chatroom and discussion group differences. They write on how 'conversation' consists of 'chat' and 'chunks'. The 'chat' segments are those where structure is managed 'locally', that is, turn by turn. The 'chunks' are those aspects of conversation which have a global, or macro-structure, where the structure beyond the exchange is more predictable. 'Chat' equals move by move unfolding of talk. 'Chunk' segments need an analysis which can capture the predictable macro or global structure'. (Eggins, Slade, 1997. p.230). Eggins and Slade carry on the work of the Conversational Analysis' (CA) theorist Howard Sacks (1974) but extend it into longer and more complex exchanges, with potential for electronic dialogue analysis.

Chatrooms with many interactants are multilogue (Eggins and Slade, p. 24) environments. Separating these voices as conversation will be a focus of this study, and something of a methodological challenge, involving the creation of new transcription protocols.

Allen and Guy (1974), writing on conversational analysis before it became an established theory, define the verbal act "as a word or group of words which functions as a separate element in the verbal stream" (Allen & Guy p. 162). Support as agreement or disagreement can vary in length from one to dozens of words. Within chatroom conversation fragmented conversation is the norm. Rarely are full sentences made, although it is arguable that complete thoughts are. This is in contrast to the behaviourists’ view that language and thoughts are identical. To behaviourists, there is no 'non-verbal thought', all thought is seen as determined only by the language used (Watson 1930, Sapir 1929, Whorf, 1940, 1956). This is one feature of my analysis which may emerge into primary significance later, as the empirical research continues.

My purpose is to describe in detail the conversational relation by isolating and measuring its primary components. Conversation process is rich in a variety of small behavioural elements which are readily recognised and recorded. These elements combine and recombine in certain well-ordered rhythms of action and expression. In the live two-person confrontation there results a more or less integrated web of communication which is the foundation of all social relations. (Guy & Allen p. 48-51). Chatrooms use many of these small behavioural elements, evolving techniques such as emoticons, abbreviations and pre-recorded sounds provided by the chatroom, such as whistles, horns, or laughter, for instance. The full web of exchange however remains unmapped at this time to my knowledge (14 October, 1999).

The problem of measurement anchored in a complex phenomenon is that it can contain thousands of discreet elements within a short time span. Allen and Guy have identified some twenty types of basic elements in the action matrix of two-person conversation. Many of these elements are not available to current chatroom speech, as they rely on physical cues for interpretation. In addition, social relations which can impose limits on conversation are not useful in chatroom analysis. In face-to-face conversation participants must be concerned about the impressions which they make on the others (Goffman 1959:33). The absence of such regulatory features in electronic talk is marked by the emergence of the practice of "flaming", or intense escalations of abusive exchange (Deng, 1992; Turkle, 1996).

Two linguistic theories which concern the relationship between language and thought are 'mould theories' and 'cloak theories'. Mould theories represent language as 'a mould in terms of which thought categories are cast' (Bruner et al. 1956, p.11). An example of mould theory is The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Cloak theories represent the view that 'language is a cloak conforming to the customary categories of thought of its speakers' (ibid). (Daniel Chandler The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis:


The American linguist Benjamin Whorf believed that speech is culture bound. He points out that words used are uniquely determined by specific cultures so that it is impossible to fully equate the thought processes of two persons from different cultures even though they appear to be saying the same thing (Whorf 1956: 221). Extending on the work of Edward Sapir (1929), Whorf developed the 'Sapir-Whorf hypothesis'. This hypothesis combines two principles. The first is linguistic determinism, which states that language determines the way we think. The second is linguistic relativity, which states that the distinctions encoded in one language are not found in any other language (Whorf 1956).

2-e/1-a. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states:

We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there. On the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions  which has to be organized by our minds and this means largely  by the linguistic systems in our mind. (Whorf, 1952, p.5)

Language thus becomes a "determining"; or at least a structuring, set of regulatory practices. As such, its systems must be observable in action, in order for it to operate consensually within given culture. Elements of the system can be deduced from any given speech exchange. Many such elements have been analysed. For instance, "sequence probability" (Allen & Guy p. 79) refers to the likelihood that any given verbal act will not be followed by any just verbal act. For example, an assertion usually follows another assertion and not a question (Allen & Guy p. 189). In chatroom conversation the "voices" have to be separated by participant speakers in order to follow the sequencing and turn taking. The difficulty arises when a speaker responds to different speakers, instead of staying with one particular voice. We always know who is speaking in a chatroom because the username prefixes the talk. However, we do not always know to whom the speaker is responding unless they use the usernames. The regulatory systems are thus placed under increased pressure. This study seeks to establish whether such pressure increases participants' competence in speech exchange relations, or alters the regulatory systems. In chatroom conversation the individual word is paramount. There is no such thing as an utterance; therefore, we may have to define new forms of 'speech-act' to analyse to reflect a mixed-sequence probability.Like other areas of the Internet, chatrooms too have etiquette, and rules of cybersense are continuously evolving. Jill and Wayne Freeze point out in their book Introducing WebTV (1998), ..that what is written is not always what is meant. A fair amount of meaning relies on inflection and body language.  It is best to clarify a person's intentions  before jumping to conclusions or getting defensive. (p. 135). "Rules" are however already established in IRC - for instance, the convention that capitals imply shouting. Other, more subtle conventions also are developing, as well as abbreviated "talk".Gudykunst and Kim (1997) make several assumptions whilst conceptualizing communication (pp. 6 - 13) which hold true in an analyses of electronic communication, and include the following:ASSUMPTION 1: COMMUNICATION IS A SYMBOLIC ACTIVITYGudykunst and Kim (1997) identify symbols as in operation? when " a group of people have agreed on their common usage". (p. 6). Due to the rapid communication aspects of chatroom dialogue symbols are frequently used as well as abbreviations. Because a symbol such as:) to represent a smile has no cultural basis, everyone easily adopts it. However, an abbreviation such as btw (by the way) may not be as easy to see by someone not used to English. Therefore, chatroom conversation in all languages must follow a pictographic symbolic convention, depicted by emoticons. The abbreviation of words and phrases will be language specific. Symbolic activity in chatrooms will form a chapter in this thesis. In an analysis of chatroom conversation the percentage of abbreviations used will be revealed as well as emoticons. Emoticons are a unique communicative response in that they do not necessarily reveal how one is saying what they are saying. For example, a person could be quite angry, however, by putting :) at the end of a few words one would think that the person was happy or that what they said was a joke. This is in contrast to oral speech where we have the cues of voice and sight and are able to determine whether the said words coincide with the views of the actual speaker. Robin Hamman (1996, 97, 98, 99) has written several papers on chatroom participation in his MA and Ph.D work (see bibliography:

) in an attempt to show how speech is constructed (see The Role of Fantasy in the Construction of the On-line Other:

). ASSUMPTION 2: COMMUNICATION IS A PROCESS INVOLVING THE TRANSMITTING AND INTERPRETING OF MESSAGESGudykunst and Kim identify transmitting messages as "the process of putting our thoughts, feelings, emotions, or attitudes in a form recognizable by others. We then refer to these transmitted symbols as a message. Interpreting messages is the process of perceiving, or making sense of, incoming messages and stimuli from the environment. " (p. 7)In chatroom conversation the way we transmit and interpret messages is different from the Gudykunst and Kim model. They claim that only messages can be transmitted, not meaning. Their interpretation of communication between participants is based on the perception that messages are transmitted and interpreted based on our background: our culture, ethnicity, and family upbringing as well as on our unique individual experiences. Therefore, since no two people have the same background or individual experiences no two people are able to transmit or interpret messages in the same way. How this model is reflected in my chatroom analysis will be important to this study because there is no sure way with current technology to know any more about someone than what they reveal, and what is “revealed” could easily be a mis-representation. Transmitting and interpreting several message at once can cause confusion. Also, if a few people leave the chatroom as we are quickly typing out what we want to say, we have hanging conversations. To add to the confusion, a person could log on three times into the same chatroom using different log-on names. At some point the chatroom can disintegrate into nonsense communication. A result of this study into chatroom conversation will be to establish the limits of conversational analysis within the chatroom environment. The final conclusion to three years of research very well could be that due to the instabilities within the chatroom milieu the analysis of conversation is not always conclusive - a possible limit on my research paradigm, and one which will be revisited in the concluding chapters of the thesis.ASSUMPTION 3: COMMUNICATION INVOLVES THE CREATION OF MEANINGGudykunst and Kim (pp 20-23) argue that only messages can be transmitted from one person to another. Meaning cannot be transmitted due to its ambiguity. With this assumption it is the channel used to transmit a message's influence which creates meaning (ie. 'the medium is the message'). Within chatrooms there is rarely formality, which affects the form of the dialogue. There is often a sense of instability, as people come and go, often without greetings or salutations. It is a medium wherein one can express whatever emotion they are feeling at the time and not worry about the immediate social consequences of the words written. Gudykunst and Kim point out that if we do not know others, we use our stereotypes of their group memberships to interpret their meaning, such as their culture, ethnic group, social class and age. In chatrooms we seldom have such clues readily available. I am referring to chatrooms in English. A chatroom where the participants speak in Yiddish, Swahili, or Yukaghir (USSR - NE Siberia) or the participants speak in specific slang may still have words used as cues which can express meaning just as symbols, such as the :) = J ; :| = K ; :( = L does. (On the Macintosh these faces comes up when :) :| :( is typed.) Conversations in chatrooms with others are usually carried on with short sentences. There are several reasons for this: 1. If several people are 'speaking' at once, then it is necessary to respond quickly. Unless paragraphs of text are available to cut and paste one is limited by both the speed at one types, and the number of people in the chatroom. 2. If we do not know anyone in the chatroom short sentences may be 'spoken' in order to decrease misinterpretation as much as possible. The nature of the conversation will always determine how brief the conversation can be. Before we say 'the Indians suck' we would have to be comfortable with whom we thought was in the chatroom, otherwise we would find ourselves being misinterpreted. Were we referring to the Cleveland Indians baseball team, native Americans, people from India, a sorority or any number of things? If we further qualify our conversation then there are fewer chances for misinterpretation. 'The Indians will never make it to the World Series', 'The Indians show no interest in baseball'', 'I reckon Pakistan will nuke the Indians'. Or any other variation of the word 'Indian' can clarify a conversation: Indian club (but a club as in a group of people or a club which is shaped like a large bottle used singly or in pairs for exercising the arms?) an Indian pitcher could mean a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, or a native American pitcher or to a person from Newfoundland it could represent their home (it is the floral emblem of Newfoundland) or to a botanist it could be the plant Sarracenia purpurea found east of the Rocky Mountains. Gudykunst and Kim (1997 pp 124 - 126) list Beck's (1988) five reasons why misinterpretations occur and these reasons also show the problems to be dealt with in chatroom conversation:1.     We can never know the state of mind - the attitudes, thoughts, and feelings - of other people.2.     We depend on [messages], which are frequently ambiguous, to inform us about the attitudes and wishes of other people.3.     We use our own coding system, which may be defective, to decipher these [messages]4.     Depending on our state of mind at a particular time, we may be biased in our method of interpreting other people's behaviour.5. The degree to which we believe that we are correct in divining another person's motives and attitudes is not related to the actual accuracy of our belief. (Beck. 1988, p.18) Elements of differences in Internet chat to established conversational analyses and its affect on meaning which will be developed in the thesis.New ways of thinking about conversation will emerge with the growing widespread use of computers as a form of communication. (Charles Ess, 1996; Michael Stubbs, 1996) E-mail is replacing a lot of traditional letter writing (Landow, 1997) E-mail's primary difference to letter writing is the rapidity of response expected when an e-mail is sent Chatrooms involve exchange even more hastily done (Spender, 1995) In chatrooms conversations are informal (Turkle, 1995) In chatrooms conversations are often experimental (Turkle, 1995) Participants experiment with various personae (Turkle, 1995) Chatroom conversations are often used for entertainment and escape, since virtual conversations can have little to no real life significance (Turkle, 1995) The primary difference between oral communication and electronic communication is how we re-address the Self (Turkle, 1995) What we say has value and power. The power of the spoken word versus the power of the written word Reading and speech theory are separate disciplines  In my work I will combine reading and speech theory  ASSUMPTION 4. COMMUNICATION TAKES PLACE AT VARYING LEVELS OF AWARENESS'A large amount of our social interaction occurs at very low levels of awareness' (Abelson, 1976; Berger & Bradac, 1982; Langer, 1978, 1989). Chatroom conversation is not necessarily routine because a person is rarely in a chatroom because they have to be. Chatroom conversation is intentional conversation. Unlike conversation which we engage in because we need to: ie. the person is there in front of us (a partner, supervisor, friend, neighbour, family, shop assistant...) or we have received a letter or e-mail and need to answer; chatrooms are where we go when we really don't need to have communication with anyone in particular.As we do not know with whom we are speaking or their background in a chatroom, our awareness is heightened. To be a part of a chatroom conversation we need to pay attention to what others are saying. However, due to the speed of conversation in chatrooms there is rarely the opportunity to ask someone to clarify what they are saying. People either intuit conversation or respond in whatever way seems to fit at the time. Chatroom conversation is one of the rare instances in human communication where there is little retribution for saying the 'wrong' thing. ASSUMPTION 5: COMMUNICATORS MAKE PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE OUTCOMES OF THEIR COMMUNICATION BEHAVIOURWhen people communicate, they make predictions about the effects, or outcomes, of their communication behaviours: they choose among various communicative strategies on the basis of how the person receiving the message will respond" [Miller and Steinberg (1975) p. 7.] Almost all communication in chatroom is based on one's pre-conceived concept of what type of people are in the chatroom. The nature of the chatroom will dictate the sort of conversation one is engaged in for the most part. Whether the chatroom is an Orthodox, sexual, political, sport, or educational site, will make the conversation much more predictable. For example, a physicist wishing to chat on string-theories or worm-holes in space may not find the people to speak with in an Eastern-Orthodox chatroom.. The communicative strategy is to be in the chatroom that appears to be of the same mindset.ASSUMPTION 6: INTENTION IS NOT A NECESSARY CONDITION FOR COMMUNICATIONGudykunst and Kim argue that intentions are instructions we give ourselves about how to communicate (Triandis, 1977) p. 11. Chatroom conversation differs from other conversation behaviours in that the scripts (predetermined courses of actions we have learned, ie the greeting ritual; (Gudykunst and Kim p. 12) we use may have no meaning to ourselves but to others within the chatroom they may seem sincere, whether to us they may or may not be sincere. Discourse management and topical goal. TURN CONSTRUCTIONAL UNITS (TCUs) Conversational analyses suggest speakers talk in units of speech, and at the completeness of a unit speakers change (Sacks et al 1974, Eggins & Slade 1997, Halliday 1978). They define a TCU as a complete unit of language, the end of which signals a point of possible speaker transfer (Eggins & Slade 1997). In a multivoiced chatroom there may be a dozen conversations happening at the same time. Developing a transcription process for this will become a major focus of discovering the TCUs.When we analyze casual, spontaneous conversation we have to deal with the MANAGEMENT of the whole encounter, taking into account factors such as who speaks when, placement of topics, and progression towards, and digression from particular topical goals. Turn-taking in oral conversation is important in that it defines who is in control (Wiemann, 1985). This same control should be demonstrated in chatroom conversation, as well as how turns and management of topics in conversation differ across chatrooms. In face-to-face oral conversation the way speakers organise 'who speaks when' is by a turn-taking system, which is composed of a 'turn constructional component', a 'turn allocation component' and a set of rules which cover both the construction and the allocation of turns (Eggins & Slade, 1997 pp 2CS:4-27). With turn-taking in conversations there are often adjacency pairs where the "interdependence of two-part units of dialogue, such as question/answer and summons/answer will show that the occurrence of a first part of such a pair will, in some way, define what comes next as the appropriate second part, so the uttering of that second part in a similar way helps to define what precedes it as the appropriate first part". (Schegloff, Jefferson and Sacks 1974). Deborah Tannen (1989) shows how conversation provides the source for linguistic and literary analyses. She argues that repetition establishes rhythm and meaning by patterns of constraints and contrasts. In chatroom analyses, I will note patterns to discover if chatroom talk also follows this concept of patterning, and where it departs from rules and practices established for "natural conversation" by CA theorists.  De-coding oral language (Wold 1978)In chatroom as in oral communication, "language and communication take place in real time, and the structure of language is to a great extent given in temporal patterns because of the primary oral character of natural language." (Wold, 1978 p.3) This study therefore, will aim to explore some of the problems which occur due to the temporal aspects of chatroom talk.When turn taking is explored, the temporal sequence of information will take on greater meaning. Turn taking in chatrooms, as will be said later, is not the same as turn taking in oral communication. Chatrooms present a chaotic form of turn taking which has as much to do with detemporalization as it does with spatialization. Wold adopts an explicit social-psychological approach to language (similar to Ragnar Rommetveit (1972a, b, 1974). This communicative perspective implies that we have to consider definite constraints both with respect to the ways in which an individual expresses him/herself and to the information then interpreted. A chatroom social-psychological approach to language differs though in several ways to Wold's views. Wold emphasizes the importance of whom we are speaking with. This is because in oral communication we have the cues of the other person, either from sight or from hearing them. We then choose our words in a way which we perceive will suit the other person. For example, if we know our listener is from a higher or a lower social background than us and we want to appear as of the same social grouping we will take on the air of their social background. This could include such utterances as slang, accent (accent referring only to distinctive pronunciation, for example, speaking pidgin in Hawaii, sounding like from East London, Brooklyn, Texas) or speaking a particular dialect (dialect referring to grammar and vocabulary as well, for example saying 'He done it' or saying 'He did it").Further study related to this section on decoding oral language includes:Regarding problems relating to experienced duration:Ornstein, R. E. (1969) On The Experience of Time. Harmondsworth, England. Penguin Books. Regarding problems relating to perception of sequences:Bakker, D. J. (1972) Temporal Order in Disturbed Reading. Rotterdam. Rotterdam University Press.Regarding problems relating to attempts to describe the time pattern of conversations:Goldman-Eisler, F. (1968) Psycholinguistics: Experiments in Spontaneous Speech. London. Academic Press.

2-e/s. Speech Act Theory

Theorists/writers: John Austin (1962), Jurgen Habermas (1989), John Rogers Searle (1965, 1969, 1976), Deborah Schiffrin (1987), Terry Winograd (1986).My focus is on the "speech-act", and the effects of "written conversation". Speech Acts involve uttering identifiable words that are perceived as coherent to members of the speech community (Gudykunst and Kim 1997 p. 153). Chatrooms are instant, changing communities which often have no consistent centre, no obvious ideology (unless it is a particular ideological chatroom), and no direction (unless one is assigned and adhered to). There is little difference between a chatroom or when people crowding on to an elevator, train or bus with no one knowing anyone, all begin to converse. There is usually one who is louder than the rest, one who is funnier, someone is usually offended or not interested. Chatrooms provide a social community study which will need to establish guidelines for analyses. My research project aims to provide one aspect of that set of guidelines.Speech-act theory analyzes the role of utterances in relation to the behaviour of the speaker and hearer in interpersonal communication. Chatrooms are Speech communities in which groups of people use rules to guide how they use language and interpret others' use of language (Hymes, 1974; Halliday 1978). A community act (the LOCUTIONARY ACT), is defined with reference to the intentions of speakers while speaking (the ILLOCUTIONARY force of utterances) and the effects they achieve on listeners (the PERLOCUTIONARY effect of their utterances) (Austin, 1962). 'This means that every utterance can be analysed as the realization of the speaker's intent to achieve a particular purpose' (Eggins &Slade 1997, p. 40).Language spoken in speech communities (e.g. chatrooms) serves at least three functions:First, the informative function of language is to provide others with information or knowledge. Second, the expressive function of language is to tell others our attitudes, feelings, and emotions. ·   Third, the directive function of language is used to direct others (e.g. causing or preventing some action) (Gudykunst and Kim 1997, p. 236). The philosopher John Austin (1962) pointed out that many utterances do not communicate information but are equivalent to actions ('I apologize...", "I promise...', 'I will...'). Austin defined clear categories of speech which used performative verbs, used to indicate the speech act intended by the speaker, (Poole 1999, p. 36) from such speech acts as:I name this ship Aurora.I pronounce you husband and wife.I find the accused guilty as charged.Close the window. (Georgakopoulou & Goutsos 1997, p. 2) ·        DIRECTIVES (speakers try to get their listeners to do something eg. begging, commanding, requesting: "Close the window."·        COMMISSIVES (speakers commit themselves to a future course of action): ·        EXPRESSIVES (speakers express their feelings, eg apologizing, welcoming, sympathizing)·        DECLARATIONS (the speaker of an utterance brings about a new external situation, eg. christening, marrying, resigning)·        REPRESENTATIVES (speakers convey their belief about the truth of a proposition, eg. asserting, hypothesizing)(Crystal, 1992: p121)For a speech act to be successful certain conditions must be met. These 'felicity conditions' require a response to each speech act. If I say "do you want to have a private chat?" and the response is "I like tofu", then my request is not fulfilled and my speech act is not successful. However, in a chatroom, those lines could very well appear one after another, though they are not adjacent speech acts. I could have asked "what food do you like?" and then typed the line "do you want to have a private chat?" before the person I was addressing responded. Thus their answer is not to my most recent statement, but to a prior one. Speech situations are composed of speech events (Hymes, 1974), activities that in turn have rules governing the use of speech (e.g. getting-to-know-you conversations - (Gudykunst and Kim 1997 p. 328)


2-e/3. Discourse Analysis

Theorists/writers: Norman Fairclough (1989, 1995), Deborah Tannen (1989).The term Discourse Analysis does not refer to a particular method of analysis. It does not describe a theoretical perspective or methodological framework but instead describes the object of study: language beyond the sentence. (Tannen, 1989, p6). Discourse Analysis studies complete text (both written and spoken), giving attention to textual form, structure and organization at all levels; phonological, grammatical, lexical and higher levels of textual organization in terms of exchange systems, structures of argumentation, and generic structures: within social, political and institutional practices of dialogue (Fairclough 1982, 89, 95). Its analysis then extends out to its social and cultural contest - a feature my own research will pick up. Reading TheoryTheorists/writers: Umberto Eco (1979, 1986, 1995), J. Kristeva (1980), Michael Payne (1993).Kristeva (1980, 1986) builds on the works of Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Bakhtin to examine the speaking subject and the signifying structures of social practice. It is Kristeva's work on intertextuality which is useful in this study of Internet "conversations". Kristeva (1986) charts a three-dimensional textual space whose three "coordinates of dialogue' are:the writing subject the addressee (or ideal reader) exterior texts Kristeva describes this textual space as intersecting planes which have horizontal and vertical axes."The word's status is thus defined horizontally (the word in the text belongs to both writing subject and addressee) as well as vertically (the word in the text is orientated towards an anterior or synchronic literary corpus) ... each word (text) is an intersection of words (texts) where at least one other word (text) can be read ... any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another." (p. 37) Essentially, every text is informed by other texts which the reader has read, and the reader's own cultural context. The simplest articulation of intertextuality can be seen in the footnotes that indicate source materials to which a given text is alluding, or which are known to have influenced the author. A constructive hypertext can make this notion of intertextuality an externally accessible "mosaic" of multiple texts, placing the internal connections about which Kristeva theorizes into a visible forum which can be expanded by each subsequent reader.My own work seeks to extend Kristeva's modelling of the layering of text, into the ever more complex and shifting systems of talk-texts. By combining her highly theorised models with the analysis of conversation and discourse linguistics, I hope to establish both a theory-rich, and methodologically complex, means of analysing contemporary electronic talk-culture.A SEMIOTIC MODEL FOR NATURAL LANGUAGEEco (1995) states that natural language (or any other semiotic system) is articulated at two levels: the expression-plane and the content-plane. On the expression-plane, 'natural languages consists of a lexicon, a


 and a syntax'. The concepts which we can express are on the content-plane (Eco, 1995 pp 20-24). Eco further subdivides these two planes into 'Form, Substance and Continuum'. How we think and express ourselves, according to Eco, is dependent on our 'content-form'.

2-e/4. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) including:
2-e/4/a. Electronic Communicated Analysis
2-e/4/b. Computational Linguistics
2-e/4/c. Text and Corpus Analysis

Theorists/writers: Charles Ess (1996), Michael Stubbs (1996),Rhetorical theories derive their basic orientation from the modes and technologies of communication that prevail in a given society, and new technologies and communication practices propel the evolution of new forms of consciousness and culture (Ess, p.237).Analyzing patterns of words and grammar in chatrooms, Instant Messenger, and within discussion group environments will present challenges not faced in other forms of textual analysis. Linguistic researcher, Michael Stubbs begins his book, Text and Corpus Analysis (1996), with a question: "How can an analysis of the patterns of words and grammar in a text contribute to an understanding of the meaning of the text?" (p.3) Stubbs continues with an explanation of text, which will be the working definition of text I will use in my own research:By text, I mean an instance of language in use, either spoken or written: a piece of language behaviour which has occurred naturally, without the intervention of the linguist. This excludes examples of language which have been invented by a linguist merely to illustrate a point in a linguistic theory. Examples of real instances of language in use might include: a conversation, a lecture, a sermon, an advert, a recipe..." (Stubbs, p.4)

2-e/5.  Pragmatics

Theorists/writers: M. A. K. Halliday (1978), S.C. Levinson 91983), Nofsinger (1991).Pragmatics is the study of linguistic communication, of actual language use in specific situations. In theory, we can say anything we wish, however, in practice, we follow a large number of social rules (many of them unconscious) that constrain the way we speak (Crystal, 1987: p. 120-122). It studies the factors that govern our choice of language in social interaction and the effects of our choice on others (Levinson, 1983; Nofsinger, 1991). Amongst the areas of linguistic enquiry, several main areas overlap. Pragmatics and semantics both take into account such notions as the intentions of the speaker, the effects of an utterance on listeners, the implications that follow from expressing something in a certain way, and the knowledge, beliefs, and presuppositions about the world upon which speakers and listeners rely when they interact. Pragmatics also overlap with stylistics and sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics, as well as discourse analysis. Semantics is the scientific study of meaning. There are many sites on the Internet and a large array of books, journals and published essays which study Semantics. Therefore, I will only review a few sites and books in this general section of the Literature Review. More on Semantics will be discussed in Case Study 5.  Semantics asGeneral Semantics as a System

General Semantics Formulations Related to Human Communications Processes, Human Evaluating, etc.

 by Robert P. Pula

General Semantics: A Critical and Meta-critical System

 by Milton Dawes

Words and What They Do To You

 (Book) by Catherine Minteer Aristotelian/Non-Aristotelian Reorientation

Learning and Using the Lingo

 by Milton Dawes

Fuzzy Logic and General Semantics in Everyday Life

 By Susan Kodish & Bruce Kodish

The Place of Aristotelian Logic in Non-Aristotelian Evaluating: Einstein, Korzybski, and Popper

 by Stuart Mayper

Ethics: A General Semantics Perspective

 by Bruce Kodish The Institute of General Semantics began in 1938. Their web site is at:

 The IGS has promoted and taught Alfred Korzybski’s non-Aristotelian system, general semantics. These areas are all concerned with the analysis of conversation and will be translated to the study of conversation in chatrooms. How meaning is derived and how symbols (emoticons) and words are interpreted in chatrooms can produce errors. There is often miscommunication in intercultural discourse. In specific there are pragmalinguistic errors, when different languages or cultures have different meanings for the same symbol or word Gudykunst and Kim (p. 219-221). Other errors in communication which have been isolated are sociopragmatic, and "stem from cross-culturally different perceptions of what constitutes appropriate linguistic behaviour" (J. Thomas, 1983. P. 99); inchoactive errors come about when the "true value of discourse" is not appreciated, when we do not understand the values people place on what they say or represent (Riley, 1989, p. 237). Other errors in communication, such as nonlinguistic errors, occur as a result of misinterpreting non-verbal cues (Riley, 1989) will not have value in chatroom speak.

2-e/6. Semiotics and semantics

 Semiotics is the study of signs and signifying practices. Theorists/writers: For a web site which lists and has useful links to many of the Celebrities in Semiotics and the Active Writers such as: Michael Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, Michael Halliday, Ferdinand de Saussure  and Daniel Chandler,  go to:

              Daniel Chandler divides oral and written text into two categories giving a list of differences: Here I will seek to link speech-act and reading/writing theory together as it is in chatroom dialogue.

Spoken Word

Written Word























 Linguistics (to establish a chatroom linguistics)diachronic (historical - comparative/philology)synchronicstructural (syntax and phonology) 

2-e/7.  Linguistic schools of thought

Zellig Harris has an established place in what commonly passes for historiography of linguistics. In this now customary view, he was perhaps the most extreme among the so-called Post-Bloomfieldians who sought to devise discovery procedures whereby a grammar could be derived from distributional analysis of a corpus of utterances without reference to meaning. Taxonomic linguistics, as this has been called, would start with a corpus of phonetic records of speech and proceed by alternating steps of segmenting these records, classifying the segments according to their distributions relative to one another, and representing the data in terms of the resulting class-labels for another round of segmentation. It was scruples of empiricism (logical positivism) and behaviorist psychology, it is claimed, that forbade consideration of meaning.

 a. Functional sentence perspective (FSP)- - analyses utterances in terms of their information content - The semantic contribution of each major element in a sentence is rated with respect to the dynamic role it plays in communication. FSP is a theory of Linguistic analysis associated with the modern exponents of the Prague School of linguistics. It refers to analysis of utterances (or texts) in terms of the information they contain, the role of each utterance part being evaluated for its semantic contribution to the whole. The notion of communicative dynamism has been developed as an attempt to rate these different levels of contribution within a structure, particularly with reference to the concepts of RHEME and THEME. b. Dependency grammar - Explains grammatical relationships by setting up dependencies (or valencies) between the elements of a construction.***>> Syntactic structure - is represented using dependency trees - sets of NODES whose interconnections specify structural relations. Every tree contains a governor and a set of dependents, each of which bears a specific relation to the governor.c. Tagmemics - focuses particularly on the need to relate linguistic form and function.d. Stratificational grammar - views language as a system of related layers (strata) of structure.e. Systemic linguistics - grammar is seen as a network of systems of interrelated contrasts; particular attention is paid to the semantic and pragmatic aspects of analysis and also to the way intonation is used in the expression of meaning.Information structure of messages: THEME vs. RHEME (RHEMATIC)re. analysis of the information structure of messagesRHEME (RHEMATIC) - The part of a sentence which adds most to the advancing process of communication (it has the highest degree of communicative dynamism) - it expresses the largest amount of extra meaning, in addition to what has already been communicated.THEME (themat-ic, -ization) - by contrast carries the lowest degree of communicative dynamism. The theme is the part of a sentence which adds least to the advancing process of communication - it expresses relatively little (or no) extra meaning, in addition to what has already been communicated. COMMUNICATIVE DYNAMISM - an utterance is seen as a process of gradually unfolding meaning, each part of the utterance contributing variously (dynamically) to the total communicative effect. Some parts of an utterance will contribute little to the meaning, because they reflect only what has already been communicated: these thematic aspects would be considered to have the lowest degree of CD. By contrast, rhematic aspects have the highest degree of CD, containing new information which advance the communicative process.Bakhtin, M. (1986) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Translated by V. W. McGee. 

2-f. Current Research 

Chatroom and Internet literature:Daniel Chandler (199CS:5-1999), Anna Cicognani (199CS:6-1999), George P. Landow (1987 -1999), Mark Poster (1988 -1999), Howard Rheingold (198CS:5-1994), Sherry Turkle (199CS:5-1999).George P. Landow has published a substantial amount of work on hypertext, both on the Internet (

) and in hardcopy, as well as being involved with the hypertextual publishing company,



).Landow speaks of the "paradigm shift" from print to electronic writing. (1992) He builds upon earlier writers: Barthes, Foucault, Bakhtin, and Derrida in his discussion of this "shift". Landow's work is in hypertext and how blocks of text are linked. As with Kristeva, I am interested in how and how far this theorisation relates to the structuring of the "talk-text" of Internet chat.I will also apply the work of Daniel Chandler (

) to my study. Chandler teaches courses on semiotics on-line and at the University of Wales. His study of codes (textual codes and social codes) as iconic signs links well with the codes of Interactive texts within the Internet environment, and provides a means of re-contextualising my study within socio-cultural contexts.Earlier writers important to the evolution of hypertext study are Roland Barthes, Michael Foucault, Theodore Nelson, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, and Claude Levi-Strauss. Barthes and Foucault were early users of terms such as link (liaison), web (toile), network (reseau) and interwoven (s'y tissent), all of which contributed to understanding of hypertextuality (Landow, 1992. p. 8). In general I am tracing the development of moves found in what is called "active" reading, and "intertextual" or culturally-embedded text, both of which are focused in the contemporary study of discourse. Mikhail Bakhtin (189CS:5-1975) uses the term heteroglossia (Emerson & Holquist 1981) to describe the inscription of multiple voices engaging in dialogue within the text. Paul Taylor (1992) points out that, "heteroglossia focuses on the production of meaning through dialogue except that heteroglossia avoids the emphasis on (narrowly defined) consensus and explicitly celebrates diversity" (p. 138). Hypertext as heteroglossia, then, is the collaborative mode which avoids a totalizing movement toward consensus; heteroglossia instead validates the diversity of values and voices that are produced by the variety of individuals. In interactive Internet "speaking", especially through chatrooms and Instant Messenger, Bakhtin's concept of the utterance builds upon the work already done in Conversational Analysis. Bakhtin identifies "utterance" as the primary building block of dialogue; utterance is to dialogue what lexia is to hypertext. These utterances provide an interpersonal verbal ritual that is a basis of communication. (Goffman 1971: 6CS:2-94) and Goffman 1981: CS:5-24). Without more than one utterance there can be no dialogue for, as Michael Holquist (1990) argues, every "utterance is always an answer to another utterance that precedes it, and is therefore always conditioned by, and in turn qualifies, the prior utterance to a greater or lesser degree (p. 60)" (See

). It is this sense of multi-connectedness my work seeks in IRC/IM talk.Methodology in cyberspace is different from any other environment. Sherry Turkle writes, "Virtual reality poses a new methodological challenge for the researcher: what to make of on-line interviews and indeed, whether and how to use them" (Turkle, 1995, p.34), quoted by Hamman (1966). Researching within virtual communities one must embrace a multi-disciplinary approach, as I have shown in the number of theoretical models I am using in this thesis. My own proposal however creates specific theoretical and methodological "focus points "within this multidisciplinary, and establishes a new direction for such study. Methodology in cyberspace is different from any other environment. Sherry Turkle writes, "Virtual reality poses a new methodological challenge for the researcher: what to make of on-line interviews and indeed, whether and how to use them" (Turkle, 1995, p.34), quoted by Hamman (1966). Researching within virtual communities one must embrace a multi-disciplinary approach, as I have shown in the number of theoretical models I am using in this thesis. My own proposal however creates specific theoretical and methodological "focus points "within this multidisciplinary, and establishes a new direction for such study. My exploration of the use of such "natural" language will extend to how it is constructed within chatrooms, Instant Messenger, and within discussion groups environment. Eggins and Slade in Analysing Casual Conversation, write:"Interacting is not just a mechanical process of taking turns at producing sounds and words. Interacting is a semantic activity, a process of making meanings" (p.6).It will be in the analysing of text on-line that I hope to find and describe a new process of meaning making in participants' conversation. The main differences I have hypothesized at the start of this study are that discussion groups are not as casual as IM or chatroom conversation. In discussion groups people usually take more time and care with what they write. They may use a spell/grammar check, and think before posting their text. There is a textual format with discussion groups. Instant Messenger and chatrooms appear at first sight to be less disciplined and more varied. But CA analysis has already showed this is not the case in casual conversation. My research suggests that there are similar, contextual forms at work in on-line chat, and that any differences my analysis can establish will be more a matter of degree than of essence.There are positive and negative aspects of doing analytical research in cyberspace. The most difficult aspect is the inability to do follow-up work with participants in chatrooms. Unless the person is identified and their e-mail address is noted so that they can be tracked within chatrooms they become lost to the researcher. People in cyberspace often change their name for use in other chatrooms, and sometimes within the chatroom they will change their name. For example, in an academic chatroom where there is scholarly discussion about an issue a person may log in as 'laProf'. In a sex-chatroom, the same person may be 'lovelylegs'. In a political chatroom the person may choose to be 'senator'. One's character is only part of one's on-line repertoire. A person can be a feather, fire hydrant, cloud or a riverbank. How the person's 'speaking' persona changes in different chatrooms is an area I intend to explore. In the meantime, my research will foreground some of the ways in which such changes might be described and identified. Summing this up, Robin B. Hamman in his MA Dissertation (1996) writes;The multiple selves that users of on-line chat rooms experiment with on-line are part of a whole self. Experimentation with these Selves is possible, at present, only within the narrow-bandwidth space on on-line chat rooms. People become Cyborgs when two boundaries become problematic, 1) the boundary between animal and human and, 2) the boundary between humans and machine.

  The indication is clear: on-line "cyborg identity" involves deliberative production of persona via performed interactive talk-text. It is this talk-text, already deployed by thousands, which I aim to analyze. The most obvious positive in my proposal is the amount of material available. With millions of people on-line and thousands of chatrooms and discussion groups there is a wealth of material. At the same time, the size of the field indicates the growing cultural importance of on-line "talk-texting" activities, and the resultant need to establish means of analysis. As my study will be from an ethnographic linguistic position I will limit my study to those who are in the chatrooms and discussion groups within the zine,


. I will also access Instant Messenger (IM) transcripts between people who have given permission for the use of their conversation. Ethnography is defined as "the acts of both observing directly the behaviour of a social group and producing a written description thereof." (Marshall, 1994, 158). In this study I will observe, analyse and present the discourse of chatroom and discussion group cultures.  Notes: Phonology study of the sound patterns that occur within languages. Some linguists include phonetics, the study of the production and description of speech sounds, within the study of phonology. Diachronic (historical) phonology examines and constructs theories about the changes and modifications in speech sounds and sound systems over a period of time. For example, it is concerned with the process by which the English words "sea" and "see," once pronounced with different vowel sounds (as indicated by the spelling), have come to be pronounced alike today. Synchronic (descriptive) phonology investigates sounds at a single stage in the development of a language, to discover the sound patterns that can occur. For example, in English, nt and dm can appear within or at the end of words ("rent," "admit") but not at the beginning. Benedikt Claire, Lisette, Ciskowski, David. MUDS: Exploring Virtual Worlds on the Internet. Qvortrup, Lars (Editor), Granum, Erik (Editor), Holmqvist, Berit (Editor). Virtual Interaction : Interaction in Virtual Inhabited 3d Worlds
 Schegloff 1987 ‘The rise and fall of languages’, by Dixon (1977). 


Chapter 3 methodology

3-a.  Transcription

Development of a protocol of a transcription methodology Types of Chatrooms Grammatical patterns in chatroom 'talk' including use of abbreviations and emoticons How roles change in a chatroom 'talk'Patterns of interaction in chatroom 'talk'How moods are established or/and changed in chatroomsThe use of abbreviations and emoticons in chatrooms. Major theoretical studies have examined conversation as interaction between participants with conversation understood as spoken communication. One primary characteristic of conversation is that it is fully interactive - at least two people must participate in it, and they exchange messages in a real-time basis. Participants take turns in exchanging these messages, so conversation is fundamentally a sequential activity (Nofsinger 1991: p.3).<SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes">  </SPAN>However, on-line sequential activity is rare.<SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes">  </SPAN>Conversation is often similar to bumper cars in a side show amusement park.<SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes">  </SPAN>Dialogue seemingly bumps and weaves often without any reason for its existence. There is a sense that participants are "thinking out loud". In a chat room, turn taking has to be isolated in order to assemble conversation into meaning.  What I will attempt to do with my methodology is to elaborate on the theories and methods of empirical research that already exist in both conversational analysis theories on the Internet and on Internet-based communities ­ such as diverse types of chatrooms. Finding how internal meaning is transmitting is a primary concern of chat room conversation. How are words or objects (using emoticons) linked to create a semantic chain to produce an identifiable and answerable sequence?Chatrooms have limitations that conversations in which physical speech is produced do not have. Talk in chatroom is limited to short phrases. Rarely will there be more than several words written at a time by a 'speaker'. Looking at a sampling of a dozen Chatrooms and hundreds of entrances I found that there was an average of 7.08 words per turn. Within that sampling 25 percent of words consisted of two letters, and 20 percent consisted of three letter words. Eighty-three percent of words used in chatroom conversations were five letters or less. The way we will communicate will change and is now changing. As we are faced with more choices and more to do all the time communication will become more concise or the speaker will be left behind.There are millions of chat rooms catering to all possible human interaction.  A majority of chat rooms become seemingly stuck in the ‘hello’ or ‘anyone want to chat privately’ categories.  The chat rooms I am analysing are rich in turn-taking and developed conversation.  This chapter on ‘storm’ a study in chat room linguistics during an emergency is my starting point in working with an on-line linguistic.<![if !supportEmptyParas]><![endif]><o:p></o:p>The purpose of my methodology is to discover the structures of chat room language. Internet communication is rapid conversation.<SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes">  </SPAN>It is rarely ‘frozen’ as it is when the chat is saved to examine.<SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes">  By developing an "analytical framework" to study chatroom conversation, I will identify differences between casual conversation and information-seeking dialogues.  This first study, ‘Storm’, is mainly of the information-seeking dialogues framework.<SPAN style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial">The methodology I propose to pursue for the textual analysis within this project is a mixture of several approaches to linguistic studies. As what I am proposing to do includes several fields of study, as shown below, I have to be clear at all times that what I am doing is at core a linguistic study. And within that framework discover the impact of text upon real events.  My approach to this study therefore, differs from a psychological or sociological approach to the use of language. The psychologist asks why we have conversation the way we do. Sociological conversation analysis asks us instead how we do the conversation. Linguists ask, "How is language structured to enable us to do conversation" (Eggins & Slade 1997, p.7). By extending this 3rd, linguistic approach into electronic interactions I can retain for my study a focus on evolving practices within a sphere still loosely considered textual rather than talk-based. In other words, I anticipate the possibility of being able to capture emergent conventional patterns of use within Internet chat behaviour, as my original contribution to this field of study.<o:p></o:p></SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial"><![if !supportEmptyParas]>In developing a transcription system to accommodate and "capture" IRC multilogue, I will use symbols to indicate: interaction between participants, change of topic, and introduction. The example below is a generic format.  Each case study will have a different method for analysis of data.  This is because I am using different theories and looking for different interpretations of meanings in each chat room. I will analyse chatrooms usingReception and Reader - Response Theory and Reader Theory’ (Umberto Eco (1979, 1986, 1995), J. Kristeva (1980), Michael Payne (1993).) See Case Study 1

)Speech Act Theory (Jurgen Habermas (1989), John Rogers Searle (1965, 1969, 1976), Deborah Schiffrin (1987), Terry Winograd (1986). See Case Study 2

)Discourse Analysis (Norman Fairclough (1989, 1995), Bakhtin, See: Case Study 3

)Conversation Analysis (Diana Slade and Suzanne Eggins (1997), Donald Allen and Rebecca Guy (1974), John Austin (1962), Erving Goffman (1959), H Sacks (1974), E. Schegloff (1974), Deborah Tannen (1989). See Case Study 4

)Semiotics and Pragmatics (Chandler, Barthes, Halliday, Saussure, M. A. K. Halliday (1978), S.C. Levinson), Nofsinger (1991). See Case Study 5

) Linguistic schools of thought: (See: Case Study 6

). Computer Mediated Communication including: Electronic Communicated Analysis, Computational Linguistics and Text and Corpus Analysis (Charles Ess (1996), Michael Stubbs (1996) See Case Study 7 - *Verbal Messages


Information Theory - Claude Shannon & Warren Weaver


Meaning - I. A. Richards


Coordinated Management of Meaning - W. Barnett Pearce & Vernon Cronen


Symbolic Interactionism - George Herbert Mead

*Nonverbal Messages>>

Expectancy Violations Theory - Judee Burgoon


Semiotics - Roland Barthes

The individual methods for each study are at:Case study 1 storm

 Case study 2 Astrology 'chat'

Case study 3 General chat

Case study 4 ’Web3d computer modeling 'chat'

Case study 5 ‘Britney Spears Chat’

Case study 6 'baseball chat'

Case study 7 analysisIn the below example of interaction between participants I will indicate retrograde speech referencing, as "speakers" can only refer to what has already been said. For example, in the multilogue below, the text in 1 is not answered until 4. Indicating this interaction will be coded 4 1. For a new topic/thread the # symbol will indicate the change. For example 'speaker' in text 5 jumps into an already existing conversation and may be changing the topic - it will depend on what follows whether '1love's' change will begin a new thread or will be ignored. To indicate this change it will be coded #5. This will be demonstrated more in example III and IV. To indicate a speaker not speaking to a known participant, such as 5 'speaking' to 'curtis' who is not in the immediate conversation, I will write CS:5-?. Greetings to a new participant will be represented by *. The codes will be in brackets following the text. [ #]. Note that the numbers represent the line of text, not the speaker.EXAMPLE I.1. Janis> Through now I know we are part of the universal plan to exist on the third dimension, but why was there such a plan for us to exist in the first place. [#]2. dammit>(Singapore) hi janis [*]3. steven> hi janis, dammit! [*] Just wanted to dropped in home-- after splatter painting my consciousness throughout the multi-verse for eons, it is nice to be here! [ 3Ù 1]4. steven> Janis, I see this no thing, some thing is like a pendulum/fulcrum swing. Tell me more about lexigrams--sounds fascinating! [4Ù 1]5. 1love> curtis, thanks for your photo, [*] this mustard seed looks all golden to me! My photo is on its way, just got the pics back today. [#]The above would be coded thus: #1, 3Ù 1, 4Ù 1, #5.The above dialogue was take off of the 'Time Traveller' web page:

Here the "out of step" narrative of the multilogue is clear. An attempt for instance to schematise the interconnections of the 4 speakers would include retrograde as well as forward directions - and include some references not in the current "dialogue box" (or "multilogue" box). To show how contributors and readers manoeuvre within such a system of exchanges I will need to develop a protocol model similar to CA to diagnose speech and to find how readers and writers understand, interact and continue. There are several models to build upon but I will use the pluri-semantic model of Kress and van Leeuwen and O'Toole (cf. Kress and van Leeuwen 1990, 1996, O'Toole 1994) in Eggins and Slade's work (1997, p.49). The pluri-semantic model is outlined below, giving three main approaches to analysing casual conversation: ideational, interpersonal, textual.

Types of meaning


Examples: above Ex. I


Meanings about the world, representation of reality (eg. topics, subject matter)

Conversation, expressions; the universal plan - #1


Meanings about roles and relationships (eg. status, intimacy, contact, sharedness between interactants)

4Ù 1 share meaningsCS:5-? Relationships undefined2Ù 1 greetings/contact3Ù 1,2 contact/greetings3Ù 1 shared meanings through metaphysical 'talk' 


Meanings about the message (eg. foregrounding/salience; types of cohesion)

1 positioning the conversation ideologically3 continues metaphysical meaning of 15 breaks own conversation into two (re. Photos) by inserting text about mustard seed.

(Schema modified from Eggins and Slade 1997, p.49)One of the areas I am interested in researching is how, within chatrooms the original discourse changes. I aim to isolate and analyse the 'departure points' from original topics. Does the person come into the chatroom with an alternative motive? Is the topic becoming boring and in need of shift? And who are the people who are speaking? Some people have a link to their 'homepage' which may contain more information about the person, but as Daniel Chandler says in his "Personal Home Pages and the Construction of Identities on the Web" ( ...the created 'textual self' is how the author wishes others to see them. "The medium of web pages offers possibilities both for the 'presentation' and shaping of self which are shared either by text on paper or face-to-face interaction.This suggests that the 'textual self' can present itself as a less constructed "reality" in the constructed exchange of On-line presentation. But whether 'textual selves' operate the same in chatrooms and IM as they do in one's homepage needs to be researched before a conclusion can be known. I hypothesize that people create a different 'textual self' for each environment they are in, and that we should not continue to regard all electronic textual practices as equal.Like other areas of the Internet, chatrooms too have etiquette, and rules of cybersense are continuously evolving. Jill and Wayne Freeze point out in their book Introducing WebTV, ..that what is written is not always what is meant. A fair amount of meaning relies on inflection and body language. It is best to clarify a person's intentions before jumping to conclusions or getting defensive. (p. 135). "Rules" are however already established in IRC - for instance, the convention that capitals imply shouting. Other, more subtle conventions also are developing, as well as abbreviated "talk" (see notes on 'abbreviations in chatrooms' 10).NOTES AND REFERENCES FOR THE METHODOLGY SECTIONAn article on analyzing tape recordings.

Time estimates for CHAT & CLAN

 " If the goal of the transcription is basically to "get the words right", I would figure about 15 hours of transcription per hour of..."CHATROOM ABREVIATIONS – a much larger database of emoticons and abbreviations are saved at:{{{{{{}}}}}} cyberhugs. {{{{{Terrell}}}}}}}:) a smiley face denotes that you are joking or happy. there are many variations on this such as :-) ;-) :0 so keep smiling :( a sad face. this too has variations of despair that can be added such as :(~~ for crying and :P~~ giving someone the raspberry >:) at its mildest is someone who is mischievous and at its worst...a horny devil. 0:) an angel... <s> is a tiny smile <S> a huge smile <g> is a grin and to make it a bigger one, use a capital g. <eg> evil grin <weg> wicked evil grin? <vweg> very wicked evil grin for those people who are not faint of heart. <bfg> big freaking grin <snicker> <giggle> <tee hee> <gag> <choke> <hack> <cough> LOL laughing out loud lmao laughing my ass off pita pain in the ass btw by the way fyi for your information imo in my opinion iyo in your opinion brb be right back bbiab be back in a bit bbl be back later afk away from keyboard ^5 high five and means you're congratulating someone on a comment they


Chapter 4 Case Studies

Discussion of the six case studies used in this thesis on chat room ‘talk’ analysis. 

TABLE X12/summary


Theory used

Case study





Reader-Response Theory






Reading Theory - (also - hypertextuality)       


Astro chat




Speech Act (SA) theory


General chat




Discourse Analysis (DA)


Web 3D




Conversational Analysis (CA)  


Britney Spears




Semiotics (Pragmatics)






Linguistic schools of thought


Instant Messenger





in progress last fiddled with on 3 April 2002 first rough draft complete: 15/4/02

CS 1. Case Study One



"Um what exactly does Holland mean when he says 'The self is a text?'"

paul – nothing really but he signifies a bunch[59]


CS 1.0 Introduction

CS 1.0.1 Abstract

My approach to this Case Study departs from what is traditionally regarded as conversation as I am incorporating a new dimension into ‘talk’, namely writing. I will develop this idea of writing and reading as being part of the speech act in this Case Study. I examine Speech Act theory as a form of critical conversational analysis in the next Case Study and I will unite these theories in the discussion section of this thesis. In this Case Study, however, I will focus on how 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. And not only is the reader reading the text written prior to the reader’s perception of it but the writer is also reading their own writing at the same time as they are writing. In some chatrooms we see what we wrote at the same time as someone else does.

A group of readers together in a reading environment, often a classroom or a library, sometimes for extended periods of time may be thought of as an interpretive community. Although this is a community of readers, a particular reader's initial engagement with a text is ordinarily a private event with meanings internally experienced in the consciousness of that reader and not necessarily shared. (Vandergrift 1987, p. 34).


Furthermore, a reader may respond, even before the first utterance is complete.  The responder anticipates the remainder of the sentence.  This moves conversation into another realm of reader response, involving more than simply reading the text.

CS 1.0.2 Research Questions

I have posed the following research question as a starting point toward analysing a culture of electronic-talk within the chatroom, Storm, using Reader-Response Theory: 

CS Is the reader the writer who is writing the reader J?

and the subordinate and related question,

CS Does the reader or the writer, produce meaning within ‘this’ chatroom, or do they create meaning together?


I will say why I used the emoticon at the end of question one in the conclusion, and how question one is a question and not a statement.

CS 1.0.3 Reason for choosing this chatroom

The first chatroom I will examine in this study of conversation in chatrooms is a chatroom that was set up for Hurricane Floyd. (see appendix 1)  I chose this chatroom as a participator may be assumed to have had more urgent and compelling reasons to be involved than participants in most general chatrooms do.  I hoped to find differences between how people relate in an emergency[60] and how they relate in other more social settings.  One of my research hypotheses for this thesis is that people create a different 'textual self' for each 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]. This chatroom arose from an emergency situation, therefore, I assumed when I first entered this chatroom, that only conversation dealing with the emergency situation would be present.  I would not expect topics about relationships, politics or sports to be discussed. How the ‘textual self’ was presented is one of my interests in this room.

CS 1.1 Methodology

In order to establish a methodology of analysis of this chatroom, ‘Storm’, I will examine an already established form of dialogue analysis, ‘Reading Theory’, which is also referred to as, ‘Reception and Reader-Response Theory’. I will show how this theory is useful, and in what ways it is limited for a study of Case Study One. I am making the assumption that the first task a participant takes in understanding meaning within a chatroom is through the reading of the text written before one enters their own contribution to the text. I believe that Reading Theory is important for the interpretation of the text in the chat room.  For my first question, Is the Reader the Writer who is writing the reader J? to be answered, the ‘reader’ and the ‘writer’ need to have a method by which to interpret what has been written and what has been read. I will discuss reading theory in greater detail below. In the conclusion I will discuss why there is an emoticon inserted at the end of the question and whether in fact my question is a question which can be answered.

To reiterate a statement I make through out this study (Introduction, Literature Review and in the Discussion),

As what I am proposing to do includes several fields of study, I have to be clear at all times that what I am doing is at core, a linguistic study. My approach to this study therefore, differs from a psychological or sociological approach in the use of language. The psychologist asks why we have conversation the way we do. Sociological conversation analysis asks us instead how we converse.  Linguists ask, "How is language structured to enable us to do conversation" (Eggins & Slade 1997, p.7). 

By extending this 3rd, linguistic approach into electronic interactions I can retain for my study a focus on evolving practices within a sphere still loosely considered textual rather than talk-based. In other words, I anticipate the possibility of being able to capture emergent conventional patterns of use within Internet chat behaviour, as my original contribution to this field of study.

In order to establish a method of analysis of case study one I will examine the already established forms of reading theorists. I will show why various theorists’ material is either useful, or inadequate for this study.

CS 1.1.1 Transcription






/\85 >1

 they work hard here,


<SPAN style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial">In developing a transcription system to accommodate and "capture" the multilogue in Case Study One, I will use symbols, numbers and letters to indicate interaction between participants. For example, see turn 88. where one can see a complete transcript, where the speaker in turn 88 is responding to the text in turn 85, change of topic and type of text (i.e. question, statement) Interaction between participants will indicate retrograde speech referencing, as "speakers" can only refer to what has already been said.

The turn number is the same in every table.

The letter is the type of speech, i.e. greeting, question…[61] In this case the D is for an answer to a previous utterance.

The speaker’s number and the turns take. Here it is the 15th person in the sequence of ‘captured’ chatters in this room and the d is this person’s 4th utterance.

The username of the particpant

If the speaker is referring to an earlier writer I note this by /\ showing go back to turn 85 and the speaker is >1 or here the first person in this chatroom.

The actual utterance. It is left as written, if in capitals, bold, italics etc.





/\85 >1

 they work hard here,



Whereas turn-taking is thought of primarily as a two-part turn taking system, in chat rooms there are so many voices that actual individual turn-taking has to be teased out to find meaning in dialogue. <o:p></o:p></SPAN><SPAN style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial">For example, in the multilogue in this chat room, the text in 71 is not answered until 81.



How ya holding up Werblessed?



So far just strong wind gusts and lots of rain.. Over 8 inches so far..

See Appendix table 9, for the ten turn takings between.