London, Jan 23 : The growing use of instant messaging (IM), a form of typed, computer-mediated communication is becoming so conversational, that it is blurring the divide between face-to-face speech and writing.
The finding is based on a study, which provides evidence for the change, including - the growing use of forms of "to be" combined with the word "like," as in, "He was like, 'It's so interesting.'"
The practice is commonly known as "Valley Girl speak," but linguists refer to it as "be + like" or "quotative like."
"What we document is the use of quotative like in spontaneous writing, where people are using it -- a lot -- as a tool for quoting the speech and thought of themselves and others," Discovery quoted co-author Bambi Schieffelin, as saying.
"What this suggests is that IMers experience the activity of IMing as very similar to face-to-face talk. Indeed, we find that they go out of their way to develop styles of writing that make IM more like talk," she added.
The researchers assigned student investigators between the ages of 18 and 20 to collect data on their own speech and IM practices in the years 2003 and 2006. In effect, a total of 33 face-to-face conversations and 132 IM sessions were recorded.
As the recordings demonstrated, students kept their communications raw and real.
For instance, one speaker, Ellen, visited her doctor and documented this face-to-face chat she had afterwards with a friend: "And umm and he was like you know alright and so then he took my blood pressure and he was like it's a little bit high did you eat a lot of salt last night? And I was like dude, I had pizza."
The researchers contemplated that quotative like serves a valuable function, particularly in IMing. Without it, speakers and computer users are limited to standard verbs, such as "say" and "think," to introduce quotations of speech or thought.
On te other hand, quotative like can enquote gestures, facial expressions and sounds. It provides speakers and even computer users with a means for producing a wide range of demonstrative effects, according to the researchers.
For example, "I thought wow," when read aloud, doesn't include the same intonations as "I was like, 'Wow!'"
"In particular, we see that the young speakers we study use standard forms, such as 'say' and 'think,' when they want to establish factual matters, and 'be + like' when they want to call attention to a speaker's attitude or demeanour," said Jones.
The study is published in the journal Language and Communication.