Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Like a few chapters in this volume, this one could not have appeared in the earlier edition of Language in the USA. When Denise E. Murray started her research into the language of cyberspace in 1984, the World Wide Web did not exist. Now many people, especially younger ones, can hardly imagine life without “the web.” In just a couple of decades, computer-mediated communication (CMC) has developed characteristic uses and characteristic linguistic features, as well as a “netiquette” of e-interaction. So prevalent and so important has computer-mediated language become – and of such excitement to so many people (though not to everyone) – that a book treating language in the USA but lacking a chapter on this topic would disappoint many student readers and their teachers.
The basic question this chapter asks is what effects the new form of communication has had on language and language use, and Murray tackles the question from three perspectives: Which new communicative situations does CMC enable and foster? Which metaphors do we use in our discussions about CMC and its venues – and what effect do those metaphors have on our perceptions and judgments about CMC? What is the place – now and in the future – of English in cyberspace? While the discussion of how CMC has affected English and other languages will interest many of you because of your familiarity or fascination with CMC, the processes influencing the formation of new words and practices in CMC are subject to the same general principles that influence language use and language change in other domains and that are discussed in the other chapters of this volume.