What is Netspeak?


Netspeak is a network language that was born in the environment of computer specialists. Initially, the term was determined by the specific hacker jargon known only in a small circle of “insiders”. Along with the popularization of the Internet and the development of various communication channels such as text messaging, e-mails, chats and twitts, the dialect created by hackers evolved and become popular within all network users. Netspeak is associated with such typical Internet communication language practices as:

  • The use of abbreviations and acronyms

For example: thx – thanks, lol – laugh out loud, brb – be right back, FAQ etc. or acronyms that contains numbers: f2f – face to face, cul8r – see you later, o4u – only for you, and so on;

  •  Creative use of typography and punctuation to stimulate the paralinguistic elements (emoticons), that act as the facial expressions

For example : ) happy, : ( unhappy, :-] sarcastic, etc.

  • Accepted lack of attention to linguistic and grammatical correctness caused by the pace of communication and its informal nature;
  • Word games

For example: combining words into neologisms: netspeak, freeware, hotmail;
using “e-” prefix: e-money, e-mail, e-book)

  • Others, like playing with fonts and styles or onomatopoeias.


The network language has many special features. The main objective is fast and effective communication, so the foundation of it is functionality, not language purism. But what determines the unique nature of this language is not fun typography and punctuation or special vocabulary, but that combination of the written and oral language within a single medium component. The distinctive feature of text and chat conversations is that it is written to imitate spontaneous speech. Netspeak is seen rather as a written language, which is somehow pushed in the direction of speech, rather than as a spoken language, which has been transcripted. It is not identical neither with speech nor with writing, but combines properties of both. Netspeak is not homogeneous – depending on the medium and the purpose, one can have more features of spoken language or more of the written one. For example, e-mail is in its form closer to the letter (so to the writing), where chat conversations are closer to spoken language, as it’s socially interactive, spontaneous, synchronous and loosely structured.


Nowadays, communicating via text messages and synchronous chat is just a marginal activity against many other much more serious linguistic practices (daily conversation, reading books and newspapers, listening to radio, etc.) so perhaps there is no point to talk about a “linguistic revolution” that many people think netspeak brought to the language itself. 
There is no deeper meaning to the new telecommunications technology, simplified formula of the information and new codes for faster and more inventive message transmission. Text messaging or chatting usually comes down to a banal exchange of information – in the best case to the transitory language game, so it is more interacting function rather than cognitive, symbolic or expressive. But – as David Crystal pointed – it is still reading and writing, maybe in just a little poorer form.

Ela Furyk



Junho 2013
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