1.1 Aim of the study
The use of more than one language in a community like the internet results in the emergence of new language especially in electronic communication. Additionally, the wide spread of technology all over the world and recently in the Arab World and the vast usage of social network sites, for example (facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn), led to the invention of new discourse amongst electronic participants. In the Egyptian community, the use of this new invented discourse is clearly apparent and highly used particularly amongst adults. This study will focus on the internet language used by Egyptian adults predominately the undergraduates and graduates. It will attempt to highlight the linguistic features of this language. This study will also tackle the influence of this new phenomenon on their handwriting of Standard English.
1.2 Objective of the study
The overall objective of the study is to find an answer to the following questions:
What are salient orthographic characteristics of English used on facebook by Egyptian users especially undergraduates and graduates?
What are some grammatical features of English used on facebook by Egyptian users
What are lexical features of English used on facebook by Egyptian participants?
To what extent is the writing of the Egyptian Facebook users especially undergraduates and graduates influenced by social networking?
Is there any standard way of English used in the social network by the participants?
1.3 Significance of the study
Although there has been some work on electronic discourse, there has been little, if any, discourse analysis of English used on Facebook. This study is expected to be beneficial for:
Lecturers or teachers as well as parents: to let them understand the kind of language students are using today indicating its probable negative influence and give them needed guidance.
English Department Students: to let them know that the new social networking represented in Facebook generates such new phenomenon in English language. Additionally. It provides them with information about the other used substitutionals of spoken language (paralanguage) and reflects how Facebook is a place where people use this language in a written form to simulate face-to- face communication.
Researchers: to inspire a good alternative to conduct researches in the field of language study and to give the information with the evidence about the contribution of Facebook in the language especially English and its Internet dialect.
1.4 Material and Method
The researcher in this study used the qualitative method because the conclusions have been made considering the purposes users may have for selecting definite linguistic means to express themselves when conversation. Additionally, this study adapted the taxonomy of Ylva Hard af Segerstad (2002) for investigating the linguistic features of the new kind of English used on the social network.
Data collection criteria
In this study, a corpus of 173 posts and comments (average of nearly 9,167 words) was collected in order to examine the characteristics of the new phenomenon in using internet English language in the Arab community. The data for this study was collected from the wall in groups and the wall of users’ profiles because everything written was open for everyone to see. This way increases the number of participants and enables to get more data of writing. Only posts and comments written in English language were collected while posts and comments written in Arabic language were excluded. Additionally, some samples contains Romanized Arabic were also included in the data.
The participants in this study are undergraduate and graduate students of AUC and BUA particularly Facebook users. As the researcher wanted only English data, only groups of the previous mentioned universities were used in searching for data. This was supposed to enlarge the number of written data. Gender of the participants can be seen from the user’s name and location is also known. It was anyhow not necessary to take gender and location into consideration. As the participants names do not play a significant role in the study, the researcher preferred not to mention them using NN instead.
1.5 Definition of key terms
What is Computer-mediated Communication?
Simpsons (2002) defines CMC as “an umbrella term which refers to human communication via computers”. It refers to any form of communication which carried through the medium of a computer synchronously or asynchronously. Simpsons explains that “synchronous CMC includes various types of text-based online chat, computer, audio, and video conferencing; asynchronous CMC encompasses e-mail, discussion forums, and mailing lists. CMC can take place over local area networks (LANs) or over the internet. Internet CMC, as well as allowing for global communication, also provides for the added dimension of hypertext links to sites on the WWW, and to e-mail addresses” (p.414) .What is World Wide Web?
World Wide Web is often abbreviated to “www” or called “the web”. It is necessary to understand that “the web” which is not a synonym for the internet but it is a subset of the internet consists of pages that can be accessed using a web browser.
What is Internet?
Sometimes called simply “the net”, is a word wide system of computer networks.
Crystal (2001) defines the Internet as “… an electronic, global and interactive medium, and each of these properties has consequences for the kind of language found there.
What are the social network sites?
Social network sires refers to websites that provide their members with services that allow them to create a profile for sharing, controlling a friends’ list, or the list of those who they make contact with, and viewing and communicating with their friends with whom they are connected (Boyd ; Ellison, 2008, p.112). Facebook is the only social network site focused in this study.
What is Facebook chatting?
Facebook chatting is talking to other people who are using the internet at the same time you are. This service enables Facebook users to conduct instant message-based conversations with Facebook friends. Its distinguished feature is that it supports one-to-one chats as well as the ability to chat with multiple friends via the facebook group feature.
1.6 Thesis organization
The present study is organized as follows:
Chapter one: Introduction
This chapter introduces Aim of the Study, Adjectives of the Study, Significance of the Study, Material and Method, and Thesis organization. It also provides definition of the Key Terms presented in the research. In order to give a detailed account about the research, Review of Literature and relevant previous research is also included in this chapter.
Chapter Two: Computer Mediated Communication
This chapter is devoted to Computer Mediated communication in general, definition, types, situations, modes, general features, and computer mediated discourse analysis.
Chapter Three: Data Analysis and Discussion
This chapter covers the analysis and results of the analysis of data using direct examples from Facebook.
A summary of the research results and some suggestion for the future research are provided.
1.7 Literature Review
1.7.1 Related Studies
In computer-mediated communication, writers have to use other manipulation of written signs in order to accomplish pragmatic work that could be achieved through phonological variation, prosody, gesture and other cues in ordinary spoken conversation. Segerstad (2002) examined the linguistic feature in computer-mediated communication found that writers use all capital letters, repetition of words, emoticons, asterisk, symbol replacing words to as paralinguistic cues in the interaction. In addition, Crystal (2011) in his book, Internet Linguistics writes that text abbreviation is actually not a modern phenomenon. Many of these abbreviations are found in chatroom interactions even before the existence of mobile phone and some of them can be dated a hundred years or more. Moreover, the omission of letter as in msg (message) and xlnt (excellent) is not a new phenomenon. According to him, Wric Partridge published his dictionary of abbreviation in 1942 which contains a lot SMS looking examples such as agn ‘again’, mth ‘month’ and gd ‘good’. Internet interactions lack the facial expression, gestures and conventions of body posture that are considered important when expressing ideas and opinions. Therefore writers use various ways to express themselves such as the use of emoticon, bold or block letters. However, despite the creativity of the art, the semantic role of emoticon is rather limited. For example, the basic smile can mean sympathy, delight, amusement and others.
Another prominent linguist in computer-mediated communication, Crispin Thurlow (2003) studied mobile messages among the first year Language and Communication at Cardiff University Students. Participants were asked to retrieve from their phones 5 messages that they had either sent or received. A total of 544 separate messages were recorded and transcribed. The length of the individual messages was calculated using the standard Microsoft word count function. Based from the investigations, Thurlow asserts that each individual does not have one style of language in any environment; instead, she/he will have a repertoire or a range of style to suit different context. The following common patterns were found;
• shortenings (missing end letters), e.g. ‘lang’ for ‘language’.
• Contractions (missing middle letters), e.g. ‘gd’ for ‘good’
• ;g’ clipping (final letter missing, e.g. ‘goin’ for’going’
•Other clippings, e.g. ‘hav’ for ‘have’
• Acronyms and intialisms, e.g. ‘v’ for ‘very’
• Letter/number homophones, e.g. ‘1’ for ‘one’
• Non-conventional spelling, e.g. ‘sum’ for ‘some’
• Accent stylization (speaker tries to represent a particular pronunciation, for example regional speech), e.g. ‘wivout’ for ‘without’
• Non-alphabetic symbol
Based on the above findings, Thurlow concludes that a number of sociolinguistic maxim or triggering factors are required to explain some of the features above:
• Speed-txters have to speed up their pace of communication, so they need to take short cuts.
• Brevity-txters have only limited space for their communication, so they need to omit any elements that are not strictly necessary for understanding
• Paralinguistic restitution-txters need to find ways to replace the aspect of physical communications such as body language that are absent
• Phonological approximation-txters want to build in ways their readers to ‘hear’ their voice, so try to change the written language to represent this.
Another study on SMS messages was conducted by Anis (2007). A total of 750 French messages were collected from four volunteers. Based from his research, he categorized the corpus into three broad types: phonetic spelling, syllabograms (rebus writing) and logograms (symbols, unilateral abbreviations, acronyms) (page, 97). In the phonetic spelling, he discovered the texters not only substituted, reduced vowels or consonants but also deleted silent letters in their messages. For example, the substitution of ‘z’ for ‘s’ (“pleaze’ for “please”). Another striking feature was syllabogram or rebus writing such as the use of a letter or a number to represent the phonetic sequence that constitutes its realization in spoken language such as ‘b4’ stands for ‘before’. The third finding in his research was logograms which involved not only word signs such as “@”for ‘at’ but also single-letter abbreviations such as “CNN” (Cable News Network) (page, 105). He concludes that such messages are intentional, creative and definitely comprehensible to their recipients. In addition, the messages also reflect common human characteristics.
Norizah Hassan and Azirah Hashim in their studies of the features and language use in electronic English in Malaysia highlight how language has been used creatively online by different ethnic groups in Malaysia. The data was taken from a corpus of 2 million words collected from various electronic genres: blogs which are written for informal readers, chats from Malaysian chatrooms, instant messages, emails and text messages between friends. In their preliminary finding, many features of spoken Malaysian English as well as other varieties of linguistic features are found in the online communication. Intersentential and intrasentential code-switching occur between English and Malay, Chinese dialects, Tamil and Iban. According to the above researchers, the features are commonly found in spoken Malaysian English except the use of symbols like @, the use of emoticons for expressions and use of the Roman script to represent sounds in Chinese. Internet users also establish their identity through the use of features specific to the variety and through the medium that is used. The study offers a general overview of the use English on the Internet.
1.7.2 Social Network Sites
New technologies have been rapidly assimilated in contemporary society. While this includes an array of gadgets, like cellphones, digital camera, computers and laptops, the use of SNS is a particular phenomena that has become increasingly popular (Joinson, 2008). SNS are used by a diverse number of people of different ages, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds who have a variety of interests resulting in hundreds of millions of users worldwide. Social Network Sites may be defined as:
Web-based service that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection , and (3)view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Body ; Ellison,2007)
Social Network Sites allow individuals to present themselves to other users using a variety of formats; including text and video .Just like chat services, SNS incorporate a list of other users with whom individuals share a connection. But unlike any other web services, SNS allow individuals to make visible their list of connections to others and to traverse their social networks (Body ; Ellison, 2007). Hence, more than virtual communities born online, SNS are usually online communities created and maintained to reflect offline relationships. Popular social network sites include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn.
Facebook is a social network service launched in February 2004. As of September 2015 it has 1.01 million active users (Nicholas Carlson, 2015). According to WhatIs.com:
Facebook is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. The site, which is available in 37 different languages, includes public features such as:
Marketplace – allows members to post, read and respond to classified ads.
Groups – allows members who have common interests to find each other and interact.
Events – allows members to publicize an event, invite guests and track who plans to attend.
Pages – allows members to create and promote a public page built around a specific topic.
Presence technology – allows members to see which contacts are online and chat.
According to WhatIs.com, Twitter is a free social networking micro-blogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices. Tweets and replies to tweets can be sent by cell phone text message, desktop client or by posting at the Twitter.com website. Unlike Facebook, where users can send messages up to 1000 characters, Twitter allows users to send out messages in short spurts of up to 140 characters per “tweet”, due to the constraints of Twitter’s Short Message Service (SMS) delivery system. Tweets are searchable within the Twitter site and are indexed by Google, whereas Facebook content is usually not visible in search engine results. Users can “follow” other users or communicate by searching for hashtags (e.g. #egypt), user-identified key words that clue readers in to what others think is important. Twitter is based in San Francisco, but it’s used by people in nearly every country in the world, and is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.
Twitter is an extremely personal method of communication. Users must choose whom they follow, and thus create a unique experience that is specific to them.
Like email or the telephone, Twitter is a non-prescriptive communication platform. Each user experiences “Twitter” differently depending on the time of day and frequency she checks her feed, the other people she follows, and the interface(s) she uses to access the network. Because of this flexibility, norms emerge, mutate, collide, and fade away among Twitter users with a fluidity that may not be easily apprehendable to a non-user . . . (Driscoll, 2010).One of the strengths of Twitter is that it can be accessed using computers or mobile phones, making it a lightweight method of communicating during crisis.
YouTube is a video sharing service that allows users to watch videos posted by other users and upload videos of their own. The service was started as an independent website in 2005 and was acquired by Google in 2006. Videos that have been uploaded to YouTube may appear on the YouTube website and can also be posted on other websites, though the files are hosted on the YouTube server (techterms.com). YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips on www.YouTube.com and across the Internet through websites, mobile devices, blogs, and email. YouTube changed the way people share videos because it created a simple way to share otherwise cumbersome and large video files. Before YouTube, it was difficult to share video with a large number of people.
According to WhatIs.com, LinkedIn is a social networking site designed specifically for the business community. The goal of the site is to allow registered members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust professionally. Like Facebook and MySpace, LinkedIn allows user to create a custom profile, which are business-oriented rather than personal. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn requires connections to have a pre-existing relationship. Moreover, basic membership for LinkedIn is free and network members are called “connections.”
Flickr describes itself as ” the best online photo management and sharing application in the world – has two main goals:
We want to help people make their photos available to the people who matter to them.
We want to enable new ways of organizing photos and video.”
Flickr is a photo-sharing site that allows users to share photos on www.flickr.com or through embedded apps on other websites. Flickr allows users to tag photos with keywords, which creates communities around common interests or events. As of November 2016, there are 92 million registered users. Because there are different types of social networks, conclusions drawn from one platform cannot be easily generalized to another platform (Hargittai, 2007). This study tackles this limitation by focusing on Facebook only.
1.8 The History of the Social Network Site Facebook
The growth of Web 2.0 has allowed many services to be created that facilitate collaboration in the World Wide Web. They are defined as “web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile … articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and view and traverse their list of connections” (Boyd/Ellison 2008). The affordances and reach of this emergent phenomenon are increasingly attracting the attention of scholars to the study of social networking (cf. Boyd/Ellison 2008).
In the last few years, some social networking sites have disappeared and some others are gaining users day by day. One of the top social networking websites at the moment is Facebook. Created in 2004 “as a cross between a tool for meeting new people and a platform for networking with people you already know” (Baron 2008: 84), Facebook has its origins in the University of Harvard (cf. Boyd/Ellison 2008). This website, privately owned by Facebook, Inc., was quickly transformed from a private club within the University of Harvard to a service open to everyone in 2006. On this social site, users create an online profile by listing personal information and interests, link up with other users and share updates of the information posted on a daily basis (cf. Hargittai/Hsieh 2011). Participants may use this network application to interact with people they already know or to meet new people that are called friends, that is, participants “who can post comments on each other’s pages, and view each other’s profiles” (Ellison et al. 2007).
Facebook was created in February 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes as a site for Harvard students only. Shortly after, it expanded to any college student with a .edu e-mail account. Between Fall 2005 and Fall 2006, Facebook expanded to high school networks, first, work networks, later, and, eventually, to Internet users in general. Facebook is the second largest social network on the web, behind only MySpace in terms of traffic. Primarily focused on high school to college students, Facebook has been gaining market share, and more significantly a supportive user base. Since their launch in February 2004, they’ve been able to obtain over 8 million users in the U.S. alone and expand worldwide to 7 other English-speaking countries, with more to follow. A growing phenomenon, let’s discover Facebook (Sid Yadav, 2006).
Facebook penetration in the Arab world stands at 81,302,064, according to the Arab Social Media Report, as of May 2014. Egypt alone constitutes about a quarter of all Facebook users in the region (24%) and has gained the highest number of new Facebook users since January 2014, with an increase of over 2.6 million users in that time period. In 2016, there are 32,000,000 active Facebook users, the highest number of users of any Arab state. The largest percentage of Egyptian Facebook users are between the ages 18 and 24 years old.
Figure 1.1 Africa Internet Statistics
Figure (1.1) shows Africa Top 10 Internet Countries in June 2016. It is clearly apparent that Egypt occupies the second place among African countries with about 34.8 internet users.
The website includes several features, such as communication through private or public messages, a chat, online fora, photos, videos, links, a personal Wall, and News Feed, where friends or participants can post their messages and comment on topics. The company is constantly modifying and improving the services provided, offering more and more online services. Like most social network sites, Facebook provides a formatted web page into which each user can enter personal information, including gender, birthday, hometown, political and religious views, e-mail and physical addresses, relationship status, activities, interests, favorite music and movies, educational background and a main personal picture. After completing their profile, users are prompted to identify others with whom they have a relationship, either by searching for registered users of Facebook or by requesting their contacts to join Facebook (usually by e-mail). Once someone is accepted as a “friend,” not only the two users’ personal profile but also their entire social networks are disclosed to each other. This allows each user to traverse networks by clicking through “friends'” profiles. This capability is the backbone of Facebook and other SNS and what attracts millions of users around the globe.
In addition, Facebook allows users to designate “friends.” An individual who is invited to be a member’s Facebook friend may either accept or reject the offer, thus providing individual control over one’s list of friends. The user can control how much information to post and who can view this information by editing their privacy settings. Specific groups of people (a network or friends) may be granted limited access to specific parts of the profile. Facebook members can upload digital pictures into virtual photo albums. A user can be “tagged” in these pictures so that his or her name appears in the caption as a link to his or her profile. If the individual does not want to be associated with the picture, he or she can “untag” it, thereby removing the name and the link (though this does not remove the picture). Members are able to post comments on photos, which appear as messages below the picture. Similarly, it is possible to post links to videos.
Facebook offers several options for communicating with others. Users can interact by sending private messages, similar to emailing. Members who are “friends” may post public messages on each other’s “walls,” which are personal message boards on their profiles. Communication may also occur in groups, which Facebook members can create and join. Offline social interactions can be facilitated through Facebook by creating invitations to events, or online notifications for meetings, parties, and other gatherings. Users may also post “notes” or blog-like entries that are linked to their profile pages.
The “headline” news in one’s Facebook account is captured by “news feed” and “mini-feed” functions. The news feed, which appears on the user’s homepage upon log-in, provides a list of actions that friends have recently undertaken, such as posting on walls or changing their relationship status. In addition, each user’s personal list of actions appears in his or her own profile as the mini-feed. A user’s mini-feed tracks “stories” that will appear about him or her in friends’ news feeds. Users may restrict the types of stories broadcast about them by these applications.
The most interesting characteristic of this site is that it enables a great variety of online genres to be accessed through the same platform; these genres being both synchronous and asynchronous. They are easily identified and can be organised and customised in the way the user of the site desires, some services can be visible to the whole online community and some cannot. Battner/Fiori (2009) put forward that it is a tool that goes beyond synchronous and asynchronous technologies; as part of Web 2.0 principles, it is a participatory platform where users can add information or modify the information already online, for example, a user can tag the pictures uploaded by adding the names of the people or a description. Any user can create a group and this can be open to other users, or restricted to a pre-selected community (cf. Battner/Fiori 2009). It is also interesting to point out that the original platform designed to keep in touch effectively with former classmates has evolved into a more diversified online tool. Now, Facebook is used as a platform for online communities that share interests in many fields: these being political, sportive, educational, scientific, commercial, or entertainment, among others. The typical user spends more than 20 minutes daily and logs on at least once a day (cf. Ellison et al. 2007).
As for the research carried out on Facebook, most scholars have analysed the use of Facebook from a sociological or pragmatic approach identifying the sense of community in the relationship between participants in social networking (cf. Ellison et al. 2007; Baron 2008; Papacharissi 2011; Yus 2011). It has also been studied as a platform to enhance learning (see for example, Blattner/Fiori 2009). In contrast, little is known about the linguistics of this online social networking website. Literature on the study of the linguistic aspects of the social networking website Facebook is very scarce; the reason for this may not only be because of its novelty but also because of the fact that it is very complex to study, as several genres are concurrent on one social networking website. In research about the use of this site as a teaching tool, Blattner/Fiori (2009: 24) point out that participants on the social networking website Facebook use more colloquial language in their speech acts and the tool “exposes learners to language varieties … that language departments and textbooks cannot match”.
The use of Facebook in the university is more and more important: while emails are the most popular online genre for academics and administration, students now prefer to use social networking websites to communicate with other students; they are Internet “natives” who make competent daily use of these services (cf. Kuteeva 2011). Hargittai/Hsieh (2011) point out that Facebook was the most popular social networking site in their survey carried out at the University of Illinois, Chicago, during 2006–2007, where 79% of the students interviewed used it. Recently, Facebook has undergone a spectacular increase in users. Facebook itself estimates that there are 1.86 billion monthly active users and its use is increasing all over the world (Facebook Inc. 2016). The current relevance of Facebook has raised some voices of a possible competition between networking tools and, for example, email, however, as Cho (2010: 1) indicates, “evidence is inconclusive as to whether social networking services compete or facilitate email usage”.
1.9 Why Facebook?
The Facebook SNS provides a convenient environment for the development of discourse communities with its varied participatory mechanisms. On Facebook users create their personal profile page allowing them to list interests and activities they share with others. They also belong to a ‘Network’ defined primarily by the educational institution with which they are, or have been, affiliated. Communication with others within Facebook takes place via a range of tools including email, discussion boards, uploaded videos and picture galleries that include a space for comments and a ‘wall’ in which users can exchange messages with nominated friends. Other popular features include status updates, ‘poking’ friends (an ambiguous tool but one of the many phatic uses of Facebook) and gift?giving (fish, flowers etc.). Facebook users can also set up their own groups which they make public or else invite others to join, thereby creating highly fluid and open ‘community’ spaces for learning. Facebook is currently the platform for various discourse communities; it is not the space for a single monolithic one. To date, thousands of groups exist with a range of common interests and discoursal expectations or norms.
Moreover, Facebook is a good environment for undergraduates to express their interests in all fields of life. According to Stutzman (2005), undergraduates use Facebook to ‘hang out’, to shoot the breeze, waste time, to learn about each other or simply as a directory. Students often use Facebook as a means of managing their social lives; staying in touch, organising nights out and the like. However, Guy Merchant’s writing on the culture of SNS, influenced by sociologists like Anthony Giddens and Zygmunt Bauman, has drawn attention to the use of sites such as Facebook to produce and perform “an ongoing narrative of the self” (2006, p.238). So, Facebook pages and communications are as much about the construction of a dynamic story of the self as that self interacts with various social contexts as they are about arranging going out clubbing. Hugh Liu’s work is an interesting addition to this line of inquiry and highlights the role of SNS profile pages as the location for ‘taste performances’ (2008) that define and distinguish social identity.
Neil Selwyn’s study of undergraduate uses of Facebook deploys its extensive data to argue that undergraduates use Facebook for particular forms of identity performances at variance with ‘official’ academic identities:
On Facebook students could rehearse and explore resistance to the academic ‘role set’ of being an undergraduate (Merton 1957) – i.e. the expected and ‘appropriate’ behaviours towards their subject disciplines, teachers and university authorities. Students who were facing conflicting demands in their roles as socialites, minimum-wage earners and scholars could use Facebook as an arena for developing a disruptive, challenging, dismissive and/or unruly academic identities. Thus Facebook was acting as a ready space for resistance and the contestation of the asymmetrical power relationship built into the established offline positions of university, student and lecturer (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). This was perhaps most clearly evident in the playful and often ironic rejection of dominant university discourses throughout the posts, with the students certainly not conforming to the passive and silenced undergraduate roles of the seminar room or lecture theatre. (2007)
Facebook is especially interesting due to its widespread use and the importance it is gaining in everyday life. Hence, Facebook SNS creates a suitable environment for undergraduates to share different interests, experiences, information, or social issues.
1.10 Facebook Chatting
This is a means of engaging in online conversation through the networked computers, dedicated applications on mobile phones or pc tablets via the Facebook social networking website. Individuals who have online access to Facebook websites interact with the other subscribers by sending text messages to each other. This process could be synchronous or asynchronous depending on the timeframe taken to respond to a particular text message.
In Facebook chatting, the users see a list of their friends who are online and thus potentially ready to chat at the moment. At the start of the conversation, an animated icon appears on the screen to inform the partner about the keyboard activity of the other partners (Jucker and Durcheid, 2012).
1.11 The Internet and the Language of Facebook Chatting
Facebook chatting is a synchronous communication in which individuals interact in one-to-one conversation. It is a form of instant messaging situation that allows individuals to engage in online ‘talking’. The spontaneous nature of facebook chatting presents some constraints to the chatters by the nature of the hardware needed to access the Internet and also the short timeframe taken to respond to conversation (Crystal, 2008). Consequently, this generates distinctive linguistic features which are referred to as ‘written speech’.
Cvjecovic (2010) observes that, in online chatting, people write differently from the way they would in ideal context. This is to establish that the linguistic features of facebook chatting are distinctive from the conventional writing form. Crystal (2008) opines that in online chatting, we are actually involved in talking. In corroborating this, Cvjecovic further explains that the nature of the language variety in Internet chatting could be attributed to time factor in passing the message across in real-time engagement which is often simultaneous. Therefore to adapt the language to the context of real-time online communication, it is simplified, compressed, shortened and conditioned to fit into the communication situation. Syntactically, the clauses are usually fragmented and abbreviated, usually involving ellipsis of the pronominal items at the subject position. The linguistic features displayed by the language of the online chatters are unique and restricted to the online context (Jucker and Durscheid, 2012). For example: the following online conversation between speakers ‘A’ and ‘B’ as written bellow demonstrates the structural characteristics of facebook chatting.
A: IKR !! It was our pleasure broo. Btw couldn’t find ur name on fb to tag u idk why..!
B: Miss u too bro hope all’s going well at beirut 1
The example above displays the nature of the language of facebook chatting as it is juxtaposed with the conventional structures.
1.12 Facebook Chatting and Egyptian Young People
Facebook is one of the social networking websites that emerged in the world of electronic communication in the year 2004. It has the unique characteristic of combining virtually all the Internet communication situations which are recognized by Crystal (2008), that is, e-mail, chatgroups, blogging, virtual worlds, instant messaging, etc. This observation posits that facebook combines both synchronous and asynchronous communication situations. The use of Internet medium for communication grew rapidly in Egypt as a result of the development in the information communication technology (ICT) in the country. According to Wikipedia, Egypt’s Internet penetration rate grew from less than one percent in 2000, to 5% in 2004, 24% in 2009, and 54.6% in 2014. Consequently, the emergence of internet in Egypt could be traced to the year 2000.
Since then, telecommunication companies followed a wider strategy to dominate Egypt’s internet market by providing both internet service and content to customers. Hence, this rapid development facilitated the utility of computer-mediated communication among the Egyptian youths. Due to the cheap and versatile nature of facebook, together with its ability and versatility to connect people around the globe, it is widely accepted and popular, mostly, among youths. The technology of facebook gives individuals the opportunity to connect, interact, and share photos and videos with their love ones across the world, even if they are widely separated geographically.
The emergence of Facebook social networking websites in the country creates a fascinating platform for the youths to explore the Internet resource in order to reach out to the world through the networked computers or dedicated applications on smart phones, pc tablets, etc. Through Facebook, users could build up their own personal space, exchange messages, and participate in any online social group (Goertler, 2009). Therefore, this makes Facebook website the most highly accessed social networking in Egypt.
Boyd,D.M.,&Ellison,N.B.(2008).Social network sites;definition,history,and scholarship.Journal ofComputer-Mediated Commjunication,13(1)210-230.
Simpson, J. (2002). Computer-mediated communication. ELT journal, 56(4), 414-15.English in Egypt
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, English was only the fourth largest of the European languages in Egypt, after French, Greek and Italian. English spread rapidly in the public schools during British occupation, but French was still the first choice of the Egyptian aristocracy (Schaub, 2000, p.227). Today learning a foreign language is mandatory in schools, and English, French and German are most common. The Egyptian government is trying to promote more foreign language teaching in schools, especially English (Mahrouse, 1994, p. 1946).
Haeri (1997, p. 161), interviewing diplomats and physicians and others from the upper class, discovered that they had, with few exceptions, received all their education in a foreign language. In the language schools, maybe as little as a few hours per week are spent learning Arabic. All other classes are taught in the foreign language of each school. In public schools, English is of course only taught in English classes, and the quality of this teaching is thought to be poor (Schaub, 2000, p. 230). Ever since Sadat opened up the Egyptian economy, more and more students are learning English in the hope of getting employment in a foreign company operating in Egypt (Elkhatib in Schaub, 2000, p. 228). English language schools are now much more common than French (Imhoof in Schaub, 2000, p. 230). This is one of the reasons why I chose for this thesis to assume that English forms the basis when chatters on the Internet do not use Arabic or romanize it.
2.8 The Internet in Egypt
Internet penetration while still low has skyrocketed from around five million users in early 2006 to 30.94 million in 2012 reaching a penetration rate of 37.92 percent. With Internet penetration rate on the rise, it was becoming harder to suppress freedom of expression or hold information from the public. Even with an estimated six million users in 2007, citizens were able to influence the media and policy agendas by reporting police brutality and mass sexual harassment incidents on the internet within the same year. Egypt’s mainstream media denied the mass sexual harassment incidents at first but when the news leaked to the world through the internet, the media later admitted the incidents and reported the events. Similarly, Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas exposed in 2007 an incident of police brutality and posted the video of policemen torturing a minibus driver on YouTube. The video sparked a “media feeding–frenzy that ultimately forced the government to prosecute the kind of conduct that has long been condoned.” 1 The policemen were accused of torture and were sent to prison, which was considered a great victory for activists in Egypt. Social media became a powerful tool used by citizens to uncover corruption, mobilize for protests, and act as real watchdog over the mainstream media and the government.
After the revolution, the number of Facebook users went up to 6.65 million from 4.7 million (Mubarak, 2011), soaring to 10.7 million by May of the same year (Egypt’s Facebook users double: Ministerial report, 2012). “A common feeling of resentment towards the coverage of the revolution in both state–owned and private media has led young activists to launch their alternative media outlets using social networks” (Solayman, 2011). Due to the fact that state–owned media misled Egyptians during the revolution depicting and portraying protestors as paid enemies trying to disrupt social peace, social media became a popular alternative for seeking the truth in the absence of media credibility. State–owned television often hosted celebrity guests who insisted that foreign hands are playing a role in the revolution by paying protestors $100 along with a Kentucky meal on a daily basis to keep going (El–Wardani, 2011). The former intelligence chief Omar Suliman was quoted by the media as saying the protestors had “foreign agendas.” Privately–owned media was mixed as some were biased depending on ownership and the integrity of the presenters. However, the revolution clearly demonstrated to the people that they cannot expect “independent unbiased media” that is controlled by businessmen close to the Mubarak regime. Opposition media reflects the interests of special groups as well. Such a dilemma added and poured into the popularity of social media despite serious issues that have to do with lack of credibility and spreading rumors on SNSs (El–Wardani, 2011).
Prior to the revolution, a few pages appeared on Facebook nominating Gamal Mubarak, for presidency (Morozov, 2012). The same techniques were employed after the revolution with pages launched by anonymous people in support of the army in general, members of SCAF in particular, or even ousted President Mubarak himself. A famous page(s) created for Mubarak after the revolution carried the name “We are Sorry President.” Official Facebook pages and Twitter accounts representing government figures or entities, political opposition figures, and even activists are on the rise (Ghannam, 2011). Political parties also maintain a strong presence on social networking Web sites.
The current Islamist regime and its supporters have joined the social media competition building a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. Rassd played a major role before, during and after the referendum over the new Egyptian constitution. The network heavily mobilized in favour of the draft constitution which was eventually passed with a majority ‘yes’ vote, but without societal consensus. Rassd glorified the constitution framing it as fair and socially just. The network also tarnished opponents of the constitution portraying them as remnants of the old regime, adopters of foreign agendas, and disloyal to Egypt. While Rassd portrayed the constitution as flawless, the April 6 youth movement criticized the constitution as indicative of a failed democratic transition. New news networks covering events in Egypt are being launched on Facebook and Twitter. Two famous Facebook pages ‘Rassd — R.N.N’ and ‘M 6 April’ describe themselves as news networks. The former is known to be associated with the ruling Muslim Brotherhood although it doesn’t formally identify itself as a media arm of the brotherhood. The latter is operated by the April 6 movement. Interestingly, the social media Rassd news network was launched one day before the revolution on 24 January 2011. Rassd which describes itself as network “to the people from the people” has two million likes while April 6 has 200k likes. Social media has become a hub for political polarization and propaganda in Egypt.