I chose this article specifically because its title caught my attention; I have never imagined how using a period (or any punctuation mark) can indicate a personality trait or an attitude.
The article seeks to find ways in which texting can carry cues that are normally carried in spoken language. For example, in spoken language, extra-linguistic cues, such as the pitch and the pauses can add meaning or even change the meaning of what we are trying to say. Similarly, non-linguistic cues, such as gestures and facial expressions serve the same purpose. In addition, these linguistic cues can add critical information about the message conveyed by the speaker. With texting, linguists are trying to find a way of figuring out these cues, keeping in mind that texting doesn’t involve any of the linguistic cues mentioned above.
A study done on texting suggests that punctuation acts as a linguistic cue that suggests additional meaning to the message conveyed. For instance, a one-word text followed by a period suggests a negative tone. The article suggests that other varieties of texting, such as spelling and emojis are also other cues that can portray feelings and alter the meaning of the text. Therefore, with the tools given (either a pencil, a computer, or our vocal folds), humans can alter them in a way that changes the meaning or adds on details to their message. This suggests that we are experiencing evolutionary changes to language and communication in general.
I generally agree that varieties of texting can have various effects on the meaning of speech, but I think that it’s more complicated than that. For example, I think that each one of us has his/her style of writing. For me personally, I don’t like to use abbreviations while texting. Not only that, but I am pretty serious with the spelling and (generally) the punctuation (not the period though). I don’t discriminate when writing to a friend or to my parents and therefore, I often write the same way. What if I am angry? Trust me, many times I can never tell if someone is angry just by reading their text. With me, it’s pretty much the same thing…I know that some won’t agree with me but please help me here; am I the only one?
Now going back to the title of the article–after all, it was what drove me to read it in the first place…Let me just start by saying that I never use a period in a text! I can also imagine its minimal use, especially among the new generations. But although the article doesn’t specifically discuss why using a period in the end might be specifically “mean”, most of us would agree that using a period suggests feelings of anger, bluntness or other negative feelings.
So I am in two minds about the study…yes! variations within texting imply variations in emotions and attitudes. But still, not necessarily–for example, I might abbreviate when I am tired and tiredness is only a temporary feeling. Tiredness is not necessarily a negative attitude since I can be having a positive attitude while still being tired. And I think here is where speech and texting differ; variations in speech specifically align with variations in attitudes, while variations in texting provide us with a whole array of possibilities of what those variations are supposed to mean!
It reminds me of an article I read a while back. This time the writer was exploring the relationship between the means of writing (for example, a paper or a personal computer) and its effect on the writing itself. One of the findings was that despite the fact that technology (e.g. typewriter, laptop, etc.) helped humans to write quicker and more conveniently, it was the reason why their writing became terser. It’s like a trade-off… sometimes you just can’t have it all: writing quicker sometimes means writing less…
I don’t know if I would have written more or if my tone were conveyed differently if I were writing by hand…but one thing we can all agree on is that this topic requires much more research in the areas of psychology, communication, and of course linguistics!
Do you agree/disagree? I know that this study is technically incomplete but you can at least share your own experience with texting or digital communication in general if you’d like.