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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 1.1:    Principal synchronicity and direction of communication in various genres

Table 2.1:    Linguistic features studied in Biber (1988)

Table 2.2:    Summary of co-occurring features on each dimension

Table 2.3:    Halliday’s three metafunctions in language and related concepts

Table 3.1:    Size of corpora compiled/sampled and annotated for the present study

Table 3.2:    Tags used in the annotation of the first twelve turns in Internet relay chat text 4a (UCOW)

Table 4.1:    Frequencies of possibility, necessity and prediction modals per 1,000 words

Table 4.2:    Frequencies of first, second and third person pronouns per 1,000 words

Table 4.3:    Type/token ratio, with standard deviation

Table 4.4:    Unweighted lexical density for five corpora

Table 4.5:    Unweighted lexical density per clause and related measures

Table 4.6:    Frequencies per 1,000 words for the most salient linguistic features

Table 4.7:    Frequencies of inserts

Table 4.8:    Frequencies of emotives

Table 4.9:    Examples of turns with inserts in the three annotated corpora

Table 4.10:  Individuals’ emotives usage in the split-window ICQ corpus, by gender

Table 5.1:    Descriptive dimension statistics for the UCOW genres and the SBC subset ← 13 | 14 →

Table 5.2:    Results from ANOVA among the new genres and from Biber’s (1988: 127) tests among his genres

Table 5.3:    Results from t-tests among the new genres

Table 5.4:    Summary of co-occurring features on each dimension

Table 5.5:    Corrected dimension scores for the “ELC other” corpus of BBS conferencing presented in Collot (1991)

Table 6.1:    Distance of the three CMC genres to oral conversations measured as standard deviation units on each dimension

Table 6.2:    Distance of the conversational writing genres to oral conversations indicated as t-values on each dimension

Table 6.3:    Results from t-tests among the conversational writing genres and the conversational spoken genres

Table 6.4:    Summary of English text types