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Signalling spokenness in personal advertisements on the Web: The case of ESL countries in South East Asia

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Chapter Summary

The continuing impact of the World Wide Web (or the ‘Web’) on everyday life focuses our attention on the ways in which the notions of speech community, culture and language are patterned in this mega ‘corpus’ of all time. This paper investigates how people in South East Asia – in particular Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore – use English in personal advertisements on the Web. The study is part of a Web corpus project investigating related questions in computer-mediated communication (see Herring 1996). The corpus is currently being built and is derived entirely from the Web.In ESL (English as a Second Language) nations, or ‘outer circle’ (Kachru 1992) countries, English is often relegated to the position of a ‘neutral’ and ‘transactional’ (as opposed to ‘interactional’) language where ‘affect’ (emotion) is played down and less developed in the private and personal (as opposed to public) domains. We might assume English used for informal purposes to be less developed. Yet, Web gurus recommend the use of spoken, as opposed to written, norms when writing for the Web. This paper then focuses on how this tension is resolved.Using a combination of a pen-and-paper and corpus-based approach (see Ooi 2001), we specifically focus on the use of appraisal, attested by Eggins and Slade (1997) to characterise spoken language. Specifically, we examine a range of amplification items. We compare the frequencies of the items found in our personal advertisement sub-corpus and selected written and spoken portions of the Singapore component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-SIN) and attempt to account for the patterns discovered.The results suggest that although South East Asian ‘netspeak’ is aligned to spoken language, this alignment is partial.



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