Copyright © 2010 Laura Christopherson All rights reserved.
What are people really saying in World of Warcraft® chat?
Article first published online: 3 FEB 2011
Copyright © 2010 by American Society for Information Science and Technology
Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Volume 47, Issue 1, pages 1–2, November/December 2010
How to Cite
Christopherson, L. (2010), What are people really saying in World of Warcraft® chat?. Proc. Am. Soc. Info. Sci. Tech., 47: 1–2. doi: 10.1002/meet.14504701340
- Issue published online: 3 FEB 2011
- Article first published online: 3 FEB 2011
Internet usage continues to increase and people spend more time chatting and forming friendships online. Out of this phenomenon, a new way of speaking is emerging. This poster reports on a pilot study that examines non-standard English features in World of Warcraft chat.
The Pew Research Center's (2005) report on Internet usage indicates a 37% increase since their 2000 survey. Increased Internet use has led to new mediums for communication as well as a new way to converse. In this paper, I will refer to the language arising out of such communication as “cyberlanguage.” Cyberlanguage (CL) is the conversational language arising out of the use of online media such as chat, instant messaging, text messaging, games, forums, and the like. It is characterized by the refashioning of standard English into abbreviated and often pictographic representations of existing concepts where layers of meaning are packed into a few simple keystrokes. It is, in part, a result of user adaptation to the constraints and affordances imposed by these new media (e.g. character length restrictions, small screen/window size). Information tools must become as facile with CL as they are with standard language.
Researchers (e.g. Baron, 2008; Cherny, 1999; Crystal, 2008; Ling, 2005; and Werry, 1996) have analyzed language used in electronic media and have uncovered a variety of linguistic features which tend to be higher in prominence than in standard English text, These features include abbreviations of all kinds and surrogate face-to-face (FTF) cues; because such cues are missing in online communication. I have collated and merged all features noted by these and other scholars into a single list and, for this pilot study, am investigating some of these features' existence in World of Warcraft (WoW) gaming chat.
WoW is the most popular massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) at this time, with approximately 11.5 million game players according to Blizzard.com. Because of its strong user community and it being relatively uninvestigated, WoW chat is fertile ground for study.
While my long-term research questions include determining the frequency and proportion of all previously-noted CL features across media, in this pilot study, I focus on three orthographic features, asterisks, slashes, and letter duplication, with the goal of investigating their communicative purposes.
World of Warcraft chat logs were collected over 73 days between 12/1/08 and 4/5/09. This corpus includes 100,083 lines of text and 24,324 word types. The chat logs for this study were taken from two U.S. servers at various times of day; however, interlocutors may be from any part of the world. Information about interlocutors, such as real name, sex, ethnicity, etc., are not known. Corpus content is primarily concerned with game play. This study was approved by the UNC-CH IRB.
The corpus was cleaned of timestamps and non-conversational text such as game feedback (e.g. Received item: Hellfire Skiver). Then, a script counted all words within the text, excluding chat channel information and interlocutor pseudonym. For example, in this line of chat:
[Guild] Superdude: so i'm pretty much on autopilot
[Guild] indicates the chat channel and Superdude is the interlocutor pseudonym. In this example, only 6 words were counted: so, i'm, pretty, much, on, and autopilot.
Out of the 24,324 total word types in the corpus, 805 were found to contain an asterisk (175, 22% of the 805 types), slash (355, 44%), and/or letter duplication (275, 34%). I then examined how the 805 types were used (i.e. what purpose they served in the conversation). Four major purposes were found: surrogate prosodic cues, surrogate proxemic cues, attempts to conserve effort and abbreviate, and discourse management strategies.
|N Types (% of 805)||275 (34%)||175 (22%)||355 (44%)||805|
|PURPOSE OF USE||n (% of 275)||n (% of 175)||n (% of 355)||TOTAL PURPOSES (% of 890)|
|Surrogate Prosodic Cues||422 (47%)|
|Elongation of sounds||275 (100%)||2 (1%)||18 (5%)||295 (33%)||EAAASSSSSY|
|Onomatopoeic expression||100 (36%)||7 (4%)||6 (2%)||113 (13%)||*bloooooooooop*|
|Offsetting punctuation for emphasis||0||14 (8%)||0||14 (2%)||thats just *my* opinion|
|Surrogate Proxemic Cues||119 (13%)|
|Emotes||0||35 (20%)||68 (19%)||103 (12%)||*tickle tickle* or /tapdances|
|Emoticons||4 (1%)||3 (2%)||9 (3%)||16 (2%)||=DDDD (emoticon emphasized)|
|Economy of Effort||188 (21%)|
|Conjunctions||0||0||109 (31%)||109 (12%)||geared/skilled (suggesting that you must be both)|
|Disjunctions||0||0||46 (13%)||46 (5%)||25vault/25os (asking to do one of two dungeons)|
|Symbolic substitution||0||1 (1%)||32 (9%)||33 (4%)||h/strat (heroic Stratholme, / signifies modification)|
|Discourse Management||161 (18%)|
|Repairs||0||115 (66%)||2 (1%)||117 (13%)||Line 1: im stuffing my sace atm (typo sace)|
|Typo/misspelling||1 (0%)||7 (4%)||36 (10%)||44 (5%)||Line 2: face* (its repair)|
Table 1 shows the frequency and proportion of communicative-purpose features across the three orthographic features. For example, 35 word types containing asterisks (20%) also exhibited emotes.
In all three orthographic features, there were 422 surrogate prosodic cues, 119 surrogate proxemic cues, 188 effort-economizing types, and 161 discourse management features. Based on these results, asterisks, slashes, and letter duplication are most often used as surrogate prosodic cues. Overall, surrogate FTF cues (proxemic and prosodic) account for the majority of 890 communicative purposes (61%). Elongation of sounds is used the most to convey prosody, emotes to convey proxemics, and conjunctions to economize effort.
Resulting from creative adaptation to an evolving landscape of communication venues, cyberlanguage exemplifies rapid language change, making its incorporation into language infrastructures difficult. The study of this phenomenon can inform the design of processes such as search, document clustering, intelligence surveillance, and summarization to better match user needs and practices. Limitations of this pilot study are largely concerned with representativeness and generalizability. Future work will expand this investigation to instant messaging, texting, forums, and other chat, and to consider issues of validation.
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