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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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Figure 1.1:      Examples of asynchronous, synchronous and supersynchronous modes of written CMC

Figure 1.2:      Working relationship between modalities, media and genres/modes in the present study

Figure 2.1:      Metafunctions in relation to register and genre in semiotics

Figure 2.2:      Approximate emergence of modes for written CMC

Figure 2.3:      Screenshot of Internet relay chat window (SCMC)

Figure 2.4:      Screenshot of split-window ICQ chat (SSCMC)

Figure 4.1:      Distribution of possibility, necessity and prediction modals per 1,000 words

Figure 4.2:      Distribution of first, second and third person pronouns per 1,000 words

Figure 4.3:      Proportions for first, second and third person pronouns of total personal pronoun use

Figure 4.4:      Average word length in the five media

Figure 4.5:      Type/token ratio, with standard deviation

Figure 4.6:      Direct WH-questions

Figure 4.7:      Analytic negation

Figure 4.8:      Demonstrative pronouns

Figure 4.9:      Indefinite pronouns

Figure 4.10:    Present tense verbs

Figure 4.11:    Predicative adjectives

Figure 4.12:    Contractions

Figure 4.13:    Prepositional phrases ← 15 | 16 →

Figure 4.14:    Standard score distribution of the linguistic features that, in SCMC or SSCMC, deviate by more than 2 s.d. from Biber’s (1988) mean

Figure 4.15:    Inserts

Figure 4.16:    Emotives

Figure 4.17:    Distribution of emotives in the conversational writing corpora

Figure 5.1a:    Mean scores on Dimension 1 for all genres

Figure 5.1b:    Spread of scores along Dimension 1 for all genres

Figure 5.2a:    Mean scores on Dimension 2 for all genres

Figure 5.2b:    Spread of scores along Dimension 2 for all genres

Figure 5.3a:    Mean scores on Dimension 3 for all genres

Figure 5.3b:    Spread of scores along Dimension 3 for all genres

Figure 5.4a:    Mean scores on Dimension 4 for all genres

Figure 5.4b:    Spread of scores along Dimension 4 for all genres

Figure 5.5a:    Mean scores on Dimension 5 for all genres

Figure 5.5b:    Spread of scores along Dimension 5 for all genres

Figure 5.6a:    Mean scores on Dimension 6 for all genres

Figure 5.6b:    Spread of scores along Dimension 6 for all genres

Figure 6.1:      Matrix combining the degree of shared context and the synchronicity of communication in the genres studied

Figure 6.2:      Relationships found between modalities, media and the genres investigated