Beliefs in GSM Text Messaging Among Academics in two Nigerian Universities

Beliefs in GSM Text Messaging Among Academics in two Nigerian Universities

Akin Odebunmi (University of Ibadan, Nigeria) and Moses A. Alo (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch029
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The chapter investigates the assumptions that academics in two universities in Southwestern Nigeria (namely, University of Ibadan- a federal government-owned institution- and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso- a state government-owned institution) work with when sending GSM (Global System of Communication) text-messages. The research on this aspect of GSM interaction, which has received little attention from scholars in Computer-mediated Communication (CMC), is approached, in the present paper, by a random sampling of 400 text-messages from the ‘sent’ (out-box) compartment of cell phones of academics in the sampled universities. The analysis of the texts is based on insights from contextual beliefs, collaborative theory and implicature. The findings reveal that senders of text messages exploit two beliefs, namely, language-based beliefs and subject matter-based beliefs, which are constrained by participants’ conception of co-interactants’ relative status in inclusive or exclusive terms, itself a determinant of the degree of the assumptions made. The findings further show that the messages which are based on research and academic activities, themselves covering research and supervision, academic promotion and advancement, general academic matters and academic obligations and assignments, are characterized by a variety of short hands, context-driven indices of assumptions and flouts of quantity and manner maxims. It is concluded that with the high level of assumptions made, aided by various linguistic tools, messages communicated by academics could be exclusive to the in-group members. Finally, future research is invited to compare the beliefs of academics with those of other groups of professionals.
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Studies On Text Messaging

A relatively large body of studies has been carried out on SMS or GSM messaging across the world. These include Thurlow (2003)Thurlow and Poff (2009), Yu (2004), Downer, Meara and Selthuraman (2006), Leong, Chen, Leong, Mastura, Mimji Sheikh, Zailinawati, Ng, Phua, and Teng (2006), Robinson, Perkins, Bauer, Hammond, (2006), Weitzel, Bernhardt, Usdan, Mays and Glanz (2007), Herman (2007), Cheung (2008), Opar (2006), Prete (2007), Enli (2007), Ling (2008), Chiluwa (2008a), Hard af Segerstad (2007), Spagnolli and Gamberini (2007), etc

A number of these studies have been devoted to medical communication as they focus on reminders for patients and treatment (e.g. Downer, Meara, Costa and Sethuraman 2006; Robinson 2006). Some others have concentrated on equally non-language-based issues such as archival discourse (e.g. Herman 2007), pedagogy (e.g. Naismira 2007), politics (e.g.Prete 2007), media discourse (e.g. Enli 2007) and psychological discourse (e.g. Raskauskas and Stoltz 2007)

The language-based studies have explored “the interplay between user relationships and language use” (Thurlow and Poff 2009:4). These include Ishii (2006), Ling (2008), etc. Some others have concerned themselves with the “thematic content or functional orientation of text messages” (Thurlow and Poff 2009:4). Studies in the category include Ling (2005) and Harper (2002). All these studies do not address pragmatic issues, and are therefore not within the scope of the present study. Studies that have pragmatic foci have discussed discourse structures (e.g. Spinalli and Gamberini 2007) and code-switching (Haggar 2007). It is evident that none of these studies has addressed the pragmatic concern of beliefs that occupies the present study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Discourse Topics: These refer to issues or subject matters that are discussed or hinted at in communication

Verbal Codes: Verbal codes refer to linguistic, as against non-linguistic, items used in communication.

In-group Marking: This points to discourse identification of members of a social or professional group through the use of certain linguistic items.

Contextual Models: Contextual models are theoretical descriptions of context. These assist scholars and individuals to systematically account for contextual variables and meaning in human interaction.

Tokens of Informality: Tokens of informality are linguistic items that index informal communication

Collaborative Discourse: This refers to the human interaction in which participants share knowledge of communicative codes and subject matters, and therefore do not need to provide elaborate (new) information in communication.

Asymmetricality: This refers to the unequal rating of status of discourse participants in social or professional terms. In other words, factors such as greater/lower age, higher/lower status, etc are indices of asymmetricality. These are brought into human interaction through certain linguistic and discourse markers.

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