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Conversational Writing

A Multidimensional Study of Synchronous and Supersynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication


Ewa Jonsson

The author analyses computer chat as a form of communication. While some forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC) deviate only marginally from traditional writing, computer chat is popularly considered to be written conversation and the most «oral» form of written CMC. This book systematically explores the varying degrees of conversationality («orality») in CMC, focusing in particular on a corpus of computer chat (synchronous and supersynchronous CMC) compiled by the author. The author employs Douglas Biber’s multidimensional methodology and situates the chats relative to a range of spoken and written genres on his dimensions of linguistic variation. The study fills a gap both in CMC linguistics as regards a systematic variationist approach to computer chat genres and in variationist linguistics as regards a description of conversational writing.
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents




Chapter 1.    Introduction

1.1    Speech vs. writing vs. conversational writing

1.2    Aim and scope of the study

1.3    Synchronicity of communication

1.4    Notes on terminology

1.5    Outline of the study

Chapter 2.    Background

2.1    Introductory remarks

2.2    Survey of the literature on speech and writing

2.3    Biber’s (1988) dimensions of textual variation

2.4    Halliday’s and others’ essentially qualitative approaches

2.5    Survey of the literature on CMC

2.6    Description of the media for conversational writing

2.7    Chapter summary

Chapter 3.    Material and method

3.1    Introductory remarks

3.2    Creating and annotating a corpus of Internet relay chat

3.3    Creating and annotating a corpus of split-window ICQ chat

3.4    The Santa Barbara Corpus subset

3.5    Standardization and dimension score computation

3.6    Average figures for writing and speech, respectively

3.7    Chapter summary

Chapter 4.    Salient features in conversational writing

4.1    Introductory remarks

4.2    Distribution of modal auxiliary verbs and personal pronouns

4.3    Word length, type/token ratio and lexical density

4.4    The most salient features

4.5    Paralinguistic features and extra-linguistic content

4.6    Inserts and emotives

4.7    Chapter summary

Chapter 5.    Conversational writing positioned on Biber’s (1988) dimensions

5.1    Introductory remarks

5.2    Dimension plots

5.2.1    Dimension 1: Informational versus Involved Production

5.2.2    Dimension 2: Narrative versus Non-Narrative Concerns

5.2.3    Dimension 3: Explicit/Elaborated versus Situation-Dependent Reference

5.2.4    Dimension 4: Overt Expression of Persuasion/Argumentation

5.2.5    Dimension 5: Abstract/Impersonal versus Non-Abstract/Non-Impersonal Information

5.2.6    Dimension 6: On-Line Informational Elaboration

5.3    Chapter summary

Chapter 6.    Discussion

6.1    Introductory remarks

6.2    Hypotheses revisited quantitatively

6.3    From genres to text types

6.4    Research questions revisited

6.5    Chapter summary

Chapter 7.    Conclusion

7.1    Summary of the study

7.2    Suggestions for further research


Appendix I.       Texts used in Biber’s (1988) study

Appendix II.      Descriptive statistics for genres studied

Appendix III.     Raw frequencies of linguistic features

Appendix IV.     Examples of excluded material

Appendix V.       Features with a |standard score| >2.0

Appendix VI.     Statistical tests of salient features

Appendix VII.   Word lists for the corpora studied

Appendix VIII.  Dimension score statistics for Biber’s (1988) genres

Appendix IX.     Computation of cluster affiliations

Appendix X.      Dimension scores for individual texts

List of References