Is The Period Becoming an Expression of Anger?
November 26, 2013 2:02 PM
In the text area, a familiar punctuation mark is taking on a new meaning
digital age of instant communication
has dramatically affected the English language by
changing its grammar, spelling, and vocabulary
. Then again the English language has survived and thrived due in part to its shameless flexibility, which historically led it to liberally borrow from other language and accept unusual new creative linguistic constructs.
The New Republic
is a news site that focuses primarily on espousing neoliberal political views, but it also offers a bit of interesting technology coverage at times. Story editor
has actually offered up
a rather interesting piece
on how the period has become a long desired piece of punctuation --
the "irony mark"
The American University
found that at the time students add sentence ending punctuation (i.e. '!', '?', and '.') 39 percent of the time in texts and 45 percent of the time in online chats. The punctuation at the end of the last sentence of the text -- the so-called "transmission-ending punctuation" occurred especially infrequently. It was found in only 29 percent for texts and 35 percent for IMs.
Part of English language speakers' trend of shortening words -- noted by other peer-reviewed research -- and dropping punctuation in the digital age is out of necessity. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, traditional SMS was limited to 160 characters.
But it is still somewhat odd to observe how in an age where punctuation is being mothballed by so many, that digital denizens are increasing the period ('.') to express sarcasm, frustration, and/or anger.
, a professor of linguistics at the
University of Pennsylvania
, tells Mr. Blair:
Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end.
In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all. In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.’
But lest the humble dot feel demeaned, it still has many friendlier usages, such as it symbolic use in internet domain names and "..." which strangely has the reverse affect as a single '.' when ending the sentence -- inviting the conversation to continue.
The New Republic
The American Univ. [pdf; study]
"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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