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 . 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
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 .
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
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.
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,
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 . 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
- 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
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
- Gender Internet resources;
- Virtual character types and stereotypes;
- Peculiarities in choosing and searching the information on the
- 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
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”
.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.
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 .
7. Psychological research conducted by Arestova A. and A.
Voykutynsky  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
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. .
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 .
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
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