In the beginning of the last century, some notable linguists and scholars, George Philip Krapp, Sterling Leonard, and Fred Walcott, to name a few, expressed their cogent views on the relativity of linguistic correctness. Correct language is not something absolute, but rather something dependent on the context and the situation. I suppose we are all aware of how this translates into our everyday language usage. Talking to close friends is different from talking to someone we don’t know. The attention we give to our language correctness is certainly higher when we’re writing a formal letter, an essay, or when we’re preparing a speech or a presentation. I myself have noticed that I’m especially careful about my language when I’m writing to someone I don’t know. With my friends, I’m quite relaxed, and even if I make a mistake, I don’t feel like it’s a big deal. Such standards have become quite established, and we, more or less, intuitively know what kind of language is appropriate in which context.
Now, things become a bit (and that is an understatement!) complicated when it comes to language usage on the Internet. With the rise of social media, and particularly Social Network Sites (SNSs), human communication has been uniquely transformed. These changes have inevitably affected the way we use language. Language production on the Internet is so varied, that even in the cyberspace there are different rules for different contexts. Writing a blog post is very different from writing a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall. All this inspired me to take an in-depth look into the opinions of people regarding language usage on Facebook. I decided to restrict my current research only on Facebook language usage because, as David Crystal has already pointed out, language production on Facebook is a strange mixture of spoken and written language. I have also noticed in my years of experience as a Facebook user that people tend to have very different standards concerning spelling, punctuation and style when communicating via (on?) Facebook.
I put all my initial questions together and compiled a survey targeting Facebook users who are at the same time English speakers (both native and non-native). This is still a pilot survey at this stage, but I really hope it will provide some interesting initial insights. Since I launched the survey yesterday 90 people have already completed it, and I received some very good feedback! I am also hoping that most of the readers of this blog will be able to spare 10 minutes of their time to complete the survey and inform friends about it. All your help is appreciated! For those of you who are interested in the results, check our blog regularly for updates in the next few weeks.
Here is a link to the survey. Thank you!