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In the text area, a familiar punctuation mark is taking on a new meaning

The 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 Ben Crair has actually offered up a rather interesting piece on how the period has become a long desired piece of punctuation -- the "irony mark".

A 2007 study by 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.
The angry period

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.

Mark Liberman, 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.

Sources: The New Republic, The American Univ. [pdf; study]



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1st world problems
By mindless1 on 12/20/2013 8:58:49 PM , Rating: 2
Mark Liberman, you have WAY too much free time. Get a hobby...




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