Tagg, Caroline (2009)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This thesis reports a study using a corpus of text messages in English (CorTxt) to explore linguistic features which define texting as a language variety. It focuses on how the language of texting, Txt, is shaped by texters actively fulfilling interpersonal goals. The thesis starts with an overview of the literature on texting, which indicates the need for thorough linguistic investigation of Txt based on a large dataset. It then places texting within the tradition of research into the speech-writing continuum, which highlights limitations of focusing on mode at the expense of other user-variables. The thesis also argues the need for inductive investigation alongside the quantitative corpus-based frameworks that dominate the field. A number of studies are then reported which explore the unconventional nature of Txt. Firstly, drawing on the argument that respelling constitutes a meaning-making resource, spelling variants are retrieved using word-frequency lists and categorised according to form and function. Secondly, identification of everyday creativity in CorTxt challenges studies focusing solely on spelling as a creative resource, and suggests that creativity plays an important role in texting because of, rather than despite, physical constraints. Thirdly, word frequency analysis suggests that the distinct order of the most frequent words in CorTxt can be explained with reference to the frequent phrases in which they occur. Finally, application of a spoken grammar model reveals similarities and differences between spoken and texted interaction. The distinct strands of investigation highlight, on the one hand, the extent to which texting differs from speech and, on the other, the role of user agency, awareness and choice in shaping Txt. The argument is made that this can be explained through performativity and, in particular, the observation that texters perform brevity, speech-like informality and group deviance in construing identities through Txt.
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