A Lexico-Semantic Analysis of Computer-Mediated Discourse in Select Instant and Text Messages of Nigerian Students

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A Lexico-Semantic Analysis of Computer-Mediated Discourse in Select Instant and Text Messages of Nigerian Students

Introduction

The advent of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) has ushered in a new era of new media, signalling unbounded possibilities for language and communication studies. In actual fact, the ever increasing mobility of the Internet the world over has opened yet other dimensions to the study of language use in computer-mediated environment. This has been attributed to the upsurge in the
world’s telecommunication market and its antecedent penetration and adoption of the technology by the populace, coupled with the improvement of the network with the third generation (3G) mobile technology, which facilitates the convergence of the technologies of the mobile phones and that of the Internet. For instance, in 2006, Nigeria had an estimate of about 8 million Internet users, many of whom relied on
equipment at cybercafés. In 2007, Internet hosts totaled 1,968. Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.
In 2006 more than 32.3 million mobile cellular telephones and 1.7 million main lines were in use (International Telecommunication Union 2007). However, in 2010 with an estimated population of 150 million, there were 72.78 million active GSM subscribers on all the major networks, with 6.69
million active CDMA subscribers. Within the estimated population of the country, there were 10 million Internet users (Miniwatts Marketing Group 2009). Of this estimation, 1.72 million Nigerians are said to be on the Facebook, with penetration rate of 1.1%. Nigeria is thus among the leading subscribers in Africa which has a total Facebook population of 17,607,440, with global penetration of 1.7% as at August 31, 2010 (Internet World Statistics).

These growing trends have provided opportunity to study human interactions as they occur across the computer mediated environment. However, unlike before, when the study of human-human interactions through the new media technologies of the Internet and the cell phone restricted scholarship to the investigation of language use in the immobile technologies such as the world wide web, email, Yahoo/MSN’s instant messengers (IM or IM’ing), Listserv and short message service (texting) of the global system for mobiles (GSM). In Nigeria, these features have significantly been studied against theoretical frameworks of Conversation and Discourse Analysis Sociology of English in Nigeria (Herring 2004a, 2004b), Pragmatics (Odebunmi 2009), Stylistics (Taiwo 2008) and Semiotics (Shoki and Oni 2008). It is therefore very significant to explore the implication of the mobility and ubiquity of the Internet on textual constructs and (English) language use of Nigerian in their interactions over the IM and the GSM-SMS platforms. This approach represents one of the contemporary methods of investigating human language textual constructs in computer-mediated communication.

The approach in this chapter is to observe and quantify the lexical variations which afford mutual intelligibility and meaning making of the textual constructs of sampled interactions. Earlier studies in Nigeria IM and SMS studies have focused on the forms and functions of textual messages (Taiwo 2008), to the best of our knowledge, little or no attention has been focused on differentiating IM and SMS compositions with a view of understanding pattern of usage especially as it concerns second language users of the English language (Nigerians in this case). The central thesis is thus, to understand the characteristics of textual constructs of Nigerians as second language users of the English language, especially the lexical/sentential differences afforded by the technologies of transmission against their socio-linguistic backgrounds.

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.

An Overview of CMC Studies in Nigeria

Scholarship into human-human interactions across digital platform did not start in Nigeria until the commercialization of the Internet and the GSM networks as earlier mentioned. This notwithstanding, Nigerians resident within and in the diaspora, have contributed immensely to the linguistic and anthropological researches of computer-mediated communication. Specifically, within the linguistic circle, giant strides have been made. Ifukor (forthcoming) has grouped Nigerian textual CMC activities and studies between 1990-2010 into three broad categories viz.

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