How Cyberspeak Revolutionizes The Way We Communicate Online
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How Cyberspeak Revolutionizes The Way We Communicate Online

Millennials are taking "text talk" a step further.

How Cyberspeak Revolutionizes The Way We Communicate Online
PC Aréna

The English language is constantly adapting, particularly through the use of slang. Evolving from generation to generation, with additions like "selfie" and "jorts," Oxford Dictionaries Online adds an average of 1,000 new entries each year — many of which are abbreviations and portmanteaus. Slang words become such a massive part of our lives that we feel the need to formally define them. And when we define those terms, we give them substance, make them real — officially changing the way our language works for us. When we define new words, we redefine English itself.

One of the most groundbreaking innovators of the English language was none other than William Shakespeare (yeah, you knew he'd come up), who invented over 1700 words that we use on a daily basis. Without him, we wouldn't have the words to express our excitement, find things laughable, or retire to our bedrooms at the end of a long day. By combining words to make portmanteaus, adding prefixes and suffixes to terms in new ways, and turning words into different parts of speech, Shakespeare revolutionized the way English is spoken today.

Millennials are doing something surprisingly similar on the Internet.

A big problem on the internet is how difficult it can be to detect someone's tone through their text. Without human inflection to help us, something genuine can be interpreted as mockery and vice versa. Fluency in cyberspeak is necessary to keep sarcasm from flying over the unwary user's head, because when the Internet talks, it often doesn't talk nice.

Internet language (especially on social media platforms), might seem like gibberish to the inexperienced cyberspeaker, but it can actually be almost formulaic in quality. Certain mixtures of capitalization, punctuation, spelling and abbreviation make for vastly different meanings.

Consider the following:

"no" "No" "No." "NO" "NO."

By simply changing the combination of capitalization and punctuation, we've already managed to convey five different moods with just the word "no." The first feels largely disinterested, almost shrug-like. The next two are nearly identical to each other save for the period at the end, but its addition makes the statement much firmer. All caps but no punctuation expresses intense dislike, or possibly a mixture of surprise and mild disgust. The final "no" is adamant about its aversion to whatever is being suggested. And that's when we fiddle with only capitalization and punctuation.

It gets a little more complicated once we graduate to larger sentences and additional combinations.

All lowercase letters tend to indicate either a lighthearted or teasing tone, and capitalizing the first letters of certain words can help emphasize The Point. All caps assert anger or excitement, while varying capitalization throughout individual words can represent a crescendo of excited squealing. And generally, the more punctuation marks, the stronger the emotion.

A single question mark is simply looking for an answer. Add a few, and the user communicates a slightly stronger sense of confusion. A string of around 10 generally indicate utter disbelief (in the "are you serious right now" kind of way, not the "I can't believe it's not butter" way). Spelling can also play a major role in setting the tone for Internet conversations. Tumblr user thebootydiaries, in glorious refusal to spell "sweetie" correctly, can often be seen angering pedantic grammarians everywhere. Similarly, deliberate misspellings are used by trolls everywhere to cause maximum disruption with minimal effort.

Of course, context is everything. If someone uses all lowercase letters while engaging in an argument, chances are the attitude they're attempting to get across is that you're not worth the effort it takes to press the shift key rather than joking around. Similarly, abbreviation of "you" to "u" can portray gentle kindness — or it can be utilized for trolling purposes.

Like any language, it takes practice to consistently grasp the full meaning of each and every Internet conversation stumbled upon. And similar to different dialects of a region, different people use distinct versions of cyber speak for their purposes. But the more exposure received, the more easily it comes to understand, and the more people begin to develop their unique style of Internet communications.

The beginnings of cyberspeak are more commonly recognized as "text language," and were initially all about efficiency — "brb" and "ily" made for speedier communication. But millennials have taken it a step further and given nuance to language on the Internet, allowing users to express and understand with more clarity than ever in casual conversation. With cyberspeak, we have the capability to convey every tone we could possibly speak aloud in silent characters on a webpage.

I think it's safe to say Shakespeare would be proud.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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