Linguistic and gender features of online communications

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

Author: Khraban Tatiana, Military Lyceum in honor of Ivan Bohun, Ukraine

Computerization is an important factor of the development of modern society. It impacts on communication of different levels that “caused the development of the info sphere; the main goal of which is to make the information available to various categories of users in any place and time convenient to them. Therefore, the dominant purposes and values of contemporary society meet the need for information [1]. However, performing a number of functions of the mass media and mass communication, the Internet is not a means of mass communication and mass media. It is a space where the mass media and communication function.

First and foremost, it should be noted that the term “virtual reality” means a world created by computer facilities; it does not exist in reality, but the computer can influence on visual, auditory and other senses of a person causing illusion of immersion in this world” [3, p. 16].

The linguistics of Internet’s object of research is the electronic communication which is defined as the communicative impact in the global computer network and the subject of study is relevant linguistic features of electronic communication at different linguistic levels: morphological, lexical, syntactic, textual (on text or the set of texts level), communicative (on the level of the communication strategy) etc [6].

In the context of article it is necessary to define the term “communication” appeared in the scientific literature at the beginning of the twentieth century and rather quickly together with the general scientific meaning as a means of communication between any objects, it acquired a social and cultural meaning related to the peculiarities of informational exchange in society.

The process of cultural development of society has been changing with the emergence of new forms of communication. Up-to-date information technologies, which allow storage and fast transmission of data arrays, usage of audio and video channels of communication, interaction with a large number of participants from around the world, became a reality. And at the same time, the virtual sphere of communication became real. “The informational society, which is under formation now, is distinguished not only and not so much with broadened possibilities of storage and processing of information as with new forms of communication and their passing through the particular social space” [6, p. 14].

The vast majority of researchers of cyberspace emphasizes the creation, existence and continuous improvement of Internet language as the unique, modern phenomenon, which has lacked for a clear definition and belonging yet, but proved its right for existence within virtual reality and sometimes beyond it.

Since “stimulating visual contacts, language resources on the Internet are getting special significance” [1, p. 4], and the Internet is creating a special communicative environment: the location of language use, which didn’t have not analogues in the past [6, p. 5].

The gender aspects of the Internet users’ activity are the matter of great interest. The impact of “gender component” online is implemented in two directions: “on the one hand, the gender influences social processes realized in the network by changing their character, on the other hand, the strengthening of internationalization and informatization of society influence gender as a social construct changing somehow the structure of gender relations at first in the Internet and then in a daily life” [6, p. 13].

As it is known, the Internet audience is very broad, as far as age, race, educational and any other characteristics are concerned. Just in this environment any accentuation and dynamics of gender parameters and gender stereotypes associated with them is the most obvious. Also, the relationship between gender features and other social and psycho physiological components of individual Internet users can be fully explored.

Initially, the Internet was the sphere of communication for men; women were rare guests in the virtual space. But in K. Borgmann’s opinion Cyberspace began gradually turn into Wyberspace [5]. There is reason to consider that the Internet favors increase of diversity of gender practices and strategies of demeanor, and that gender relations in the Internet communications can develop in four directions:

- Patriarchal direction that means intensive implanting of traditional convictions and values;

- Biarchal direction that means balance of male and female natures in the Internet, partnerships and collaboration between genders;

- Unisexual direction that means inseparability of masculine and feminine natures or their merging causing a vanish of gender differences at all;

- Multiple directions that means instantaneous change of gender and existence of both genders simultaneously.

Being consequence of the technological possibilities of the Internet, the emergence of these new gender practices leads to the revolutionary revision of the whole working model of gender relations in society.

It should be noted that L. Kompantseva distinguishes works about gender and online communication by directions. She mentions that scientists explore gender features of the Internet communication from different disciplinary positions and theoretical paradigms, and in particular, they study:

- Gender Internet resources;

- Virtual character types and stereotypes;

- Peculiarities in choosing and searching the information on the Internet;

- Linguistic manner of construction and transformation of virtual identity [10, p. 170-171].

The researches of online communication that were conducted recently enable to consider the linguistics of the Internet as a new area of modern linguistics. Having analyzed a number of works on this subject, we came to the conclusion that at present linguistic and gender features of online communications have the following features:

1. Communication in the Internet mainly occurs indirectly without visual contact. The lack of clear gender positions often causes the communication miss or failure because of existence of certain rules of communication between men and women. “Things, which are permissible to the interlocutor of the same sex, can become unacceptable to person of the opposite sex, and vice versa” [8, p. 305].

2. In Russia and some developing countries deepening gender inequalities in the social space of the Internet are observed as well as there are significant differences among the strata of the population concerning access to information resources and technologies. In Western social science this phenomenon received a special term Gender Digital Gap. It appears as significant predominance of men in discussion groups formed during a computer connection, their assertive communicative style, focus of software on male pattern etc. [6, p. 191].

3. Relations between the intensity of gender differences and the language itself (“the degree of anthropocentrism” according to the quotation of A. Kirilina). Different languages have different degree of anthropocentrism, which depends on a set of common and adopted in a particular culture language means. There are languages, where the organizational differences in the use of language have a traditional nature.

4. Influence of gender stereotypes associated with personal and social norms and expressing gender inequality of men and women.

5. Deliberate “sex change” in computer communication (e.g. chat rooms) known as “gender switching” / “gender swapping” / “cross-dressing”, and in post-Soviet countries as “games with identity”, “carnivalization”. M. Beißwenger writes that the specific attractiveness of network consists exactly in possibility of experiment with their own identity [4, s. 19]. V. Nesterov completely agrees on this: “Owing to anonymity and invisibility as a consequence of lack of visual imaginary in online communications, person usually creates a virtual image according to his/her desires and capabilities” [14].The presence of games with identity in the Internet communication also is noted by A. Mytin and A. Voykutynsky. They emphasize that this phenomenon can be “induced by showing either negative identity or role-playing experiments with the departure of the real “I” to a more dynamic and ideal. According to them, “in the online space there is the constant playing of those social roles, which for some reason do not get the desired development in real life” [12, p. 212].

6. Especially in the Internet, some gender particularities of communication can appear differently or vanquish. Also, new forms, which have not been recorded in common conversation, can arise. However, “all of these features have rather probable character than inventory one. Under certain conditions, they can completely vanish or mutate. This permits us to consider gender an unstable parameter” [9, p. 367].

Gender becomes forged and counterfeit rather than constructible one and this very fact contributes to the spread of the phenomenon of multi gender position, when a person can pose themselves in online communication alternately as a representative of any type of gender (masculine, feminine or androgenic). Sh. Turkle describes the virtual space as "Identity workshop". This definition provides new interpretation of traditional identity [13].

7. Psychological research conducted by Arestova A. and A. Voykutynsky [2] gives reason to assert that the motivation of using the Internet by women have strong communicative component of compensation. Women are more likely than men to note motive of intellectual and creative self-realization, motive of overcoming communication shortage. The Internet attracted women with improvisation and playing, acquiring new knowledge and personal growth. The opportunities of achievement this aim is provided by the Internet.

8. Online women and men polish up examples of behaviors, which are unusual for them, but would be desirable in real life. L. Kompantseva notes that the origin for creating new online-image and online-behavior is lack of self-confidence and self-satisfaction, negative self-feeling, desire to escape from the existential and social vacuum [10; 11].

9. K. Borgmann points out following peculiarities of linguistic behavior of women: they shape their thoughts carefully using indirect suggestion rather than concrete facts and arguments, ask many questions including specializing and rhetorical ones; feminine style of speaking differ in correctness, passivity, verbal amiability and lack of sense of humor. [5].

In this context, H. Goroshko notes that in online communication women adhere to a subordinate and compromising position. On the contrary, men dominate in this communication and more often initiate new discussion topics. Women's linguistic behavior is more emotional both in common and online communication. For the purpose of expressing emotions they use other language means: acronyms, playing with images, size and number of letters and punctuation marks [6].

10. As opposed to the impact of usual environment on the exhibition of gender parameter in electronic communication the format (genre) of communication (email, chat, conference etc.), off-line or online mode, focus and other factors have dramatic effect. This feature is noted by both home (H. Goroshko) and foreign scientists (T. Zazie). T. Zazie points out that exhibition of gender peculiarities are associated not only with the sender of message but also with its recipient. The gender differences especially manifest themselves in case of opposite gender of sender and recipient [15].

Having reviewed linguistic and gender features of online communications we cannot help agreeing with the Ukrainian scientist L. Kompantseva stating that “scientists are exploring gender features of online communication from different disciplinary positions and theoretical paradigms: gender Internet resources, a virtual character types and stereotypes, specificity of choosing and searching information in the Internet, linguistic ways of creating and transformation of virtual identity” [10, p. 170 -171].

Thus, the analysis of linguistic and gender features of online communications evidences that gender is undoubtedly an important category during the virtual communication, but the communication behavior in Internet is not so much different from common reality. A lot of peculiarities of male and female verbal behavior had their evidences in electronic communication.


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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

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