This study investigates variation in the representation of SJA consonants in Jordanian Chat (JC) in a corpus of online texts drawn from three Jordanian chat rooms.
The focus is on identifying variants of consonants and studying them in relation to their users.
The results show that perceptions about dialects and associations of dialect with gender are reflected in JC, especially as regards the phoneme /q/.
Chatters creatively transcribe their dialectal consonants in order to preserve the distinctness of their variants in JC.
In addition to investigating the representation of SJA consonants in JC, this study also examines the sociolinguistic indications related to the graphemic (i.e., orthographic) representations of the variants of four “dialectal” consonants in JC, and thus addresses the need for sociolinguistic research that focuses on how people communicate on the Internet (see Gass, 2008, pp. Specifically, the analysis examines the contexts in which the phonetic variants of /q/, /ð/, /D/, and /θ/ are represented in JC.
In addition, the study investigates the associations between the use of the variants of /q/ and the gender of chatters and their dialectal background.
The language variety under investigation is Spoken Jordanian Arabic (SJA) that is represented in chat through the use of ASCII (i.e., American Standard Code for Information Interchange) symbols.
In general terms, the ASCII code consists of 128 characters: the most common Latin letters (upper and lower case) that are used in European languages, numerals, punctuation marks, and other common symbols (Palfreyman & al Khalil, 2003).
As in offline communication, language use in computer–mediated communication (CMC) reflects aspects of society and culture.
In Jordan, phonetic variation in Spoken Jordanian Arabic (SJA) reflects dialect differences.
Since language, in its spoken form, usually shows variation, dialectal or otherwise, so too the orthographic representation of language on the Internet is expected to reflect this variation.
In spoken language, the different variants of phonemes and words are often associated with social factors such as the dialectal background, gender, geographical location, and age, etc. It is expected that these differences will also be evident in the choice and use of language variants that are transcribed on the Internet, as typography and orthography “are the primary ‘physical’ cues available to users to express themselves and to convey information about their identity” (Zelenkauskaite & Herring, 2006, p. The focus in this study is on CMCthat takes place in (near-)real time and that can be referred to as “text-based online chat” (Simpson, 2002).
If the dialectal variation that is found in SJA is evident in JC, this can be taken as evidence that chatters using JC are able to encode the “fine details” of their spoken varieties in the orthographic representation of these varieties while chatting on the Internet.