Language in Society


Enregistering internet language

Lauren Squiresa1

a1 Department of Linguistics, University of Michigan, 440 Lorch Hall, 611 Tappan St. Ann Arbor, MI 48109


This article investigates the enregisterment of an internet-specific language variety and its features. The enregisterment of internet language is explored through several sites of metadiscourse: academic scholarship about computer-mediated communication, uses of the metalinguistic terms netspeak and chatspeak in print media, and online comment threads about language and the internet. This metadiscourse provides evidence of a shared concept of internet language as comprising distinctive written features, primarily acronyms, abbreviations, and respellings. Internet language's enregisterment emerges from standard language ideology and deterministic views of technology, where the construal of these features as both nonstandard and internet-specific articulates the perceived distinctiveness of internet interactions. Yet empirical evidence shows that these features are relatively rare in instant messaging conversations, one form of interaction to which internet language is attributed; this discrepancy has implications for the application of indexical order to enregisterment. (Enregisterment, language ideology, computer-mediated communication, internet, metadiscourse, indexical order, Standard English, technological determinism, mass media)

(Received January 08 2009)

(Revised August 25 2009)

(Accepted November 20 2009)

(Reviewed December 11 2009)