Japanese Deaf Adolescents' Textisms

Japanese Deaf Adolescents' Textisms

Yoshiko Okuyama (Department of Languages, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2014040102
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Abstract

This study investigated how texting was used by deaf adolescents in Japan. A small corpus of dyadic messages exchanged via cell phone between 2 deaf high-school students at a residential school was collected to examine the features of unconventional spellings typically used in text messages, or “textisms.” The characteristics of this text-message corpus were analyzed along with the factors associated with texting behaviors of other deaf adolescents in their school in order to explore the features of textisms adopted by these deaf adolescents. The study found that in the pair's 356 messages, the deaf adolescents adopted characteristics of textisms very similar to those used by the hearing adolescents studied by other researchers on Japanese mobile communication.
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Introduction

Text messaging is one of the most popular means of peer-to-peer communication among teens in developed nations. In Japan, the mobile phone is called keitai, and the number of keitai subscribers reached 132.76 million by March 2012, according to TheStatistical Handbook of Japan (2013) issued by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The most popular usage of cell phones among adolescents is keitai meeru, a Japanese equivalent of text-messaging (Breuer, 2009; Igarashi et al., 2005; Miyake, 2007). Research on texting in English has shown that computer slang, such as gr8 (great) and LOL (laugh out aloud), are ubiquitous in SMS, e-mail, and other formats of digital writing. It has also be found that expressions used in the dyadic informal exchange of English text messages range from lexical to morpho-syntactic to orthographic features, and these unconventional spellings are termed textisms (Plester et al., 2008). There are other similar labels such as Txt (Shortis 2007). For consistency, the term textisms is used in this paper. Although there are some similarities, textisms produced by Japanese adolescents are fundamentally different from those reported in the studies about texting published in English for the following reasons. First, Japanese orthography consists of three different scripts: the phonology-based syllabic script called kana, the morphographic script called kanji, and the much less utilized alphabetic script called romaji (the Latin alphabet). Thus, Japanese text messages are written in the combination of these three scripts. Second, young Japanese frequently use two types of picture icons in their text messages: kao-moji and e-moji. Kao-moji refers to horizontally drawn smileys and other symbols with facial expressions, similar to English emoticons (e.g., (T_T) or (^O^)/). This pictograph is a Japanese equivalent of emoticons but is far more extensive and complex than the English version (Miller, 2004). By contrast, e-moji icons are brightly colored and finely illustrated graphic symbols that resemble objects and concepts (e.g., ), similar to blinkies used in English blogs, except that e-moji is static in nature. These keitai pictographs are usually downloadable from the phone’s database. Young Japanese use both types of pictographs frequently in their messages as a visual strategy to express emotions, cuteness, and other social cues (Hjorth, 2003; Miyake, 2007). The use of the pictograms is a phenomenon said to be influenced by the popularity of visual arts, such as manga and anime, as well as by a relatively strong visual orientation inherent in Japanese culture (Katsuno & Yano, 2007; Miyake, 2007). Japanese youths’ texting is known to embrace unconventional scripts, such as code-like expressions called gal-moji. Characteristics of gal-moji represent an unconventional orthographic mixture (e.g., a sudden appearance of Roman alphabet spelling in a Japanese sentence) and use of the Greek symbols used in mathematics (e.g., ψ), or other foreign fonts such as Cyrillic letters (e.g., Д). However, there are also similarities between Japanese and English textisms. As with English texting, a more colloquial writing style is preferred in Japanese texting as a way to increase intimacy and creativity, and word play is frequently used to add humorous, nonchalant effects (e.g., Satake, 2005; Masuda, 2005; Miyake, 2007) similar to informal e-mail exchanges among Japanese adolescents. Other linguistic features of English textisms, such as frequent word truncation, are also common features of Japanese high-school and college students’ texting (e.g., Nakamura, 2005; Satake, 2005; Miyake, 2006). Unfortunately, these characteristics only represent the textisms of hearing adolescents typically recruited as subjects in the previous research.

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