New Hypothesis: Written language is a para-linguistic feature in its self.

Introduction: Communication via written language takes away a whole dimension of communication – paralinguistic and prosodic features, yet this dimension is the most important of them all. Anyone can say words in a monotonous tone, devoid of paralinguistic features like facial expressions, tone and pitch and body language, but would these words possess any meaning? Written communication resembles this, a language without any life, colour and meaning. It isn’t until we add in our written paralinguistic features such as emoticons that our written communication begins to form a living, breathing and flowering entity full of colour and passion. But what if in our written language, we have created a whole new dimension under the banner of paralinguistic features? What if written language is a paralinguistic feature in itself? Because paralinguistic features such as facial expressions, body language, pitch and tone, and context to surroundings are non-existent in written language without the use of emoticons or dictation, we have redesigned written communication into a modern functional paralinguistic feature over text that has the capability of portraying emotion, physical context, tone and pitch. Everything that we type in a text message has an underlying para-linguistic link because the way in which is worded or the language features used recreate the meaning displayed in our spoken language that reflects our personality and adds meaning and life to what we are saying. We have achieved the incredible and turned our electronic machines into living, breathing, talking devices. I am going to explore this inconceivable prospect through the analysis of the use of modern written language features such as homophonic logograms/logograms, acronyms, ellipsis, omitted punctuation, and use upper case letters.

Paragraph 1: Homophonic logograms/logograms


Homophones are an example of how written language is a paralinguistic feature in itself. A logogram is a character used to represent a word and is becoming increasingly used in our modern written communication over text. An example of a logogram is demonstrated in a written text communication between Annika and Abi, where Abi says “R u wearing mufti?” to Annika. The use of this logogram in this particular conversation is a paralinguistic feature because it adds meaning to behind the written words. It creates a very casual persona to the conversation, making it much more informal and personalized. Without the use of this logogram, “Are you wearing mufti?”, the words would have appeared on the screen as meaningless and generic. Yes, they would have had their literal meaning that they were assigned on their creation and graduation into the English Dictionary, but they would have been lacking all meaning related to context. The logogram adds meaning to the words that they would otherwise not have.

One Reply to “Introduction”

  1. Hi Emily,

    Thanks so much for sharing this work on your journal.

    I really like where this is going, and I’m particularly enjoying the expressiveness you’ve been able to inject into this piece without crossing the boundary into informality.

    The contrarian in me (and please don’t take this as a criticism or a signal that you’re doing anything wrong, it’s not) would like to suggest to you that while I believe your hypothesis to be valid in many ways, I definitely have to disagree that standard written English is in any way lifeless or monotonous.

    In fact, your essay supports my point in its very nature, if not in its message, as it is vibrant and expressive.

    What I would say is that the reason we have developed these shortcuts to generating para-linguistic features in text communication is that this kind of communication is more similar to speech than writing. It’s almost exclusively used as a means of communicating one to one, largely between friends who know each other well. Because of the wonder of modern technology a person can now type, as I am now, and almost in that instant it can be transmitted to another individual and read. It makes sense in this context that we hanker for the features of speech that are so readily available to us when we communicate in person.

    While modern text language is wonderful, and expressive, I don’t think it’s actually better than standard English. It just serves a different – and new – purpose.

    When it comes to this kind of communication. The communication of technical information in a public forum, I would contend that standard English reigns supreme (to use a cliche). Moreover, I believe – and here I think Shakespeare might not agree (such a tinkerer with language was he – not to mention a man who wrote almost exclusively for speech), but Ernest Hemingway would – that even within the rules of standard written English, there is scope to convey a universe of nuance and colour and life.

    I hope I will be able to convince you of this by the time the year is out.

    I think your essay is going to be great anyway.

    I totally appreciate and support the idea that you worked with a hypothesis, abandoned it, and then came forward with a better one. This is exactly what I’m trying to encourage.

    This is going to be a tremendous year.


    Chris Waugh

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