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Keywords:

  • Spanish;
  • Quechua;
  • orthography;
  • performance;
  • online forums;
  • asynchronous

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

Using positioning theory and notions of stylization and performance, we examine alternative orthographies posted in Spanish on a Peruvian radio station's website. These posts were reactions to a published photo of Peruvian indigenous congresswoman Hilaria Supa's orthographic errors in notes she took during a congressional meeting. Contrary to our original assumptions, we find that commenters who used Spanish CMC orthography were less likely to support Hilaria Supa's own Quechua-influenced orthography, while commenters using a hyper-normative Spanish orthography were more supportive of Supa. We discuss possible reasons for this contradiction, with findings that contribute to a growing body of literature on CMC in non-English speaking environments and suggest new beliefs regarding the use of nonstandard Spanish orthographies in asynchronous CMC environments.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

The intersection of computer mediated communication (CMC) and standard Spanish orthography has become a major point of controversy among advocates of the Spanish language. Because Spanish orthography has traditionally been perceived as more phonetically based and therefore “easier” to learn (compared to, say, French or English; Benjamin & Butt, 1994), the increasing popularity of alternative orthographies in Spanish CMC has caused alarm among some members of the academic élite. Although research has shown that CMC alterations in orthography—what Anis (2007) and others term “neography”—do not lead to alterations in other, more traditional written registers (cf. Gómez, 2007, Varnhangen, McCall, Figueredo, Sadler et al., 2009), many Spanish-speaking academics continue to look unfavorably upon CMC orthographies for fear that other modes of communication may be denigrated (Fernández, 2008).

This misperception may be due in part to a failure to recognize some forms of CMC as conversation-like, rather than exclusively written modalities. Research on both synchronous and asynchronous CMC has highlighted its relationship to both oral and written expression, with varying conclusions. Herring (2010) noted that several recent studies have shown CMC as “meaningfully conversation-like, regardless of synchronicity” (p. 2); this observation has been supported by studies such as Myers (2010). Belda (2002) hinted at the oral nature of CMC by commenting on its “dialogic appearance” (p. 47).1 Danet (2001) took a more nuanced standpoint by discussing both the reduced and enhanced nature of digital writing in relation to speech and printed writing. In her words, “The curious condition of being both doubly attenuated and doubly enhanced means that typed online communication lies between speech and writing, yet is neither” (p. 12). Anis (2007) positioned himself at the other end of the spectrum, warning that “the adoption of oral features in CMC is often overestimated,” though his own research contained several examples of phonetic-related alternation in alternative French orthographies (p. 88). We conclude from these works that while CMC may not exactly lie on a continuum between oral and written expression, it does contain enough elements of both to merit discussion with respect to its oral-like components. In the words of Thorne (2003), “all artifacts, including Internet communication tools, are imbued with characteristics that illustrate the intersection of histories of use with the contingencies of emergent practice” (pp. 40–41). In our case, the history of phonetic adaptation in Spanish intersects with the emergent practice of CMC.

Therefore, our goals in this article are first to put forth a typology of Spanish CMC orthography, which we define as a non-standard orthography that is used in most synchronous and certain asynchronous CMC environments. Second, we examine how Spanish CMC, standard, and what we term hyper-normative orthographies were used in a performative manner in one asynchronous environment to index and position a variety of affiliations, identities, and notions of expertise. Because asynchronous Spanish CMC typically uses standard orthography, we show how the performance of conflicting orthographies led certain commenters to index beliefs surrounding not only Spanish CMC, but also Peruvian notions of education and knowledge. Our findings contribute to a growing body of literature on CMC in non-English speaking environments and suggest new beliefs regarding the use of nonstandard Spanish orthographies in asynchronous CMC environments.

Theoretical framework and method of analysis

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

For our theoretical framework we take as a first point of departure Bauman's (1975, 1987, 2000) and Bauman and Brigg's (1990) theories of performance, defined as a “specially marked way of speaking” that opens itself up to audience scrutiny (Bauman, 1987, p. 8). Although Bauman originally examined the notion of performance as it pertained to verbal art and expression, we and others (e.g., Danet & Herring, 2007) find that this notion can also be applied to both synchronous and asynchronous CMC, as this modality often paves the way for performance to take place. First, commenter anonymity means that some interlocutors may express themselves more creatively—one of Bauman's (1975) essential elements of performance. Belda (2002) discussed how a CMC context often leads to a “disinhibition on the part of the user, who feels secure in anonymity” (p. 46). Danet (2001) also noted “because identity is disguised, participants enjoy reduced accountability for their actions, and can engage in ‘pretend’ or ‘make-believe’ behavior of all kinds” (p. 8). North (2007) referred to this behavior as carnivalesque in nature, employing “playful and often ribald discourse” (p. 539). Myers (2010) also hinted at the performative nature of asynchronous CMC in his analysis of blog discussions, noting that commenters on the blogs in his sample were “constantly concerned with self-presentation” (p. 264).

At the same time, the act of publishing one's comments on a public forum both forces the interlocutor to examine and justify their own communicative competence, as well as leave themselves open to “audience members” (in this case, other commenters') reactions and evaluations to their comments. As Bauman and Briggs (1990) stated, “Performance puts the act of speaking on display […] objectifies it, lifts it to a degree from its interactional setting and opens it to scrutiny by an audience” (p. 73), in this way requiring a certain “assumption of responsibility to an audience for a display of communicative competence” (Bauman, 1975, p. 293).2

Performance in a CMC context is often indexed by stylized form of writing. Stylization, as defined by Rampton (2009), is “reflexive communicative action” demonstrated by “specially marked and often exaggerated representations of languages, dialects and styles” that are not normally produced by these individuals (p. 149). Stylization is also an important element of Coupland's (2007) seven dimensions of performance, particularly the focuses on form, relations and achievement, where performers will give special consideration to style and enact these styles for specific groups and with specific stakes in mind. Given the non-habitual nature of these practices, stylization can “invite attention to creative agency in language use” and even “contribute to the denaturalization of hegemonic language ideologies” (Rampton, 2009, p. 149).

In our data we see evidence of a simultaneous denaturalization and reinforcement of these ideologies through the performance of two styles of writing: Spanish CMC and hyper-normative orthographies and registers. These two styles appear to be destined for different audiences and index different stakes. To more closely examine these distinct performances, we turn to Davies and Harré's (1990) notion of positioning, defined by Howie and Peters (1996) as “a discursive practice in which persons locate themselves and others in conversations” (p. 52). Acts of positioning, such as those demonstrated by the use of alternative orthographies or registers, show “how each conversant conceives of themselves and of the other participants” (Davies & Harré, 1990, p. 48). Davies and Harré also note that positioning is both interactive and reflexive; in other words, interlocutors can both jointly position each other (interactive) as well as themselves (reflexive).3 For this reason, positioning often results in conflicting interactions as interlocutors question how other participants have positioned them. Moreover, in a CMC context the absence of more personal cues leaves vulnerable to positioning those items that are irrelevant to a face-to-face context, such as orthographic competence. As Walther (1996) stated, “the overreliance on minimal cues is more pronounced when participants have no physical exposure to one another, as in CMC” (p. 18).

In this article we take a discursive psychological approach to positioning, as suggested by Korobov (2010). That is, we examine how acts of positioning index certain ideologies, rather than whether or not these acts are in themselves reflective of greater social norms. We view the performance of certain orthographies and registers as acts of positioning that participants employ in order to make their practices “appear (or not appear) normative or rule-governed” (Korobov, 2010, p. 267). In our corpus of 435 online comments we examine how certain commenters index distinct notions of “proper” or “correct” orthography in a CMC context, as well as how some of these commenters perform these orthographies in a stylized manner in order to enhance their and their audience's experience.

We originally analyzed this data using a constructivist grounded theory method (Charmaz, 2006). That is, although we were aware of the notions of performance and positioning prior to analyzing the data, we did not return to this as a theoretical framework until we had grouped the data into relevant themes and categories. It was only after examining these groupings that the concepts of performance and positioning became relevant. Before beginning this analysis we offer some background information on the event that led to these postings.

Participants and Background

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

On April 23, 2009, the Peruvian newspaper Correo published on their front page a close-up photo of indigenous congresswoman Hilaria Supa taking notes during a congressional meeting that had occurred several days prior (Figure 1).4 A portion of the photo was enlarged to show Supa's notes, which contained several orthographic errors in Spanish.5 The photo was accompanied by the title “¡Qué nivel!” (what a level), and the subtitle “Urge Coquito para Congresista Supa” (Congresswoman Supa needs a Coquito; a Peruvian literacy book for children). The accompanying article, written by Correo editor Aldo Mariátegui, questioned Supa's capacity for a congressional position, adding that her legislative work had up that point been “flojo” (lazy).

image

Figure 1. Detail of Correo's front page, April 23, 2009

Download figure to PowerPoint

The picture and accompanying editorial energized what was already an ongoing debate among Peru's élite regarding Supa's qualifications for Congress. Professors in the Linguistics section of Lima, Peru's prestigious Catholic University published a communiqué in support of Supa, noting that, as a bilingual in Quechua and Spanish, Supa used orthography typical of a Quechua learner of Spanish, and that this did not indicate a lack of intelligence or capacity on her part. Among journalists, politicians, and the general public, the debate on the Hilaria Supa event clustered around two camps, which allied themselves with either Mariátegui's or the Catholic University's views on Supa.

As the debate over Supa's orthography and qualifications for Congress played out over the following week on radio and television programs, readers of Correo and other Peruvian media were expressing their own opinions through comments on these media's web sites. One web site in particular, for Peru's national radio station RPP (Radio Programas del Perú), registered an extremely high amount of comments to their online reports on the event. Altogether, 435 comments were posted on the site within 36 hours in response to four stories about Hilaria Supa and the Correo editorial, compared to 15–40 comments per story for other news items during the same time period.

Hilaria Supa's first language is Quechua, which is spoken in her home department of Cuzco and several other highland areas of Peru, as well as several other Andean countries. Quechua is characterized by its myriad varieties—most scholars believe it is more accurate to refer to Quechua as a family of languages (King & Hornberger, 2004)—and its relatively recent written culture. The combination of different varieties and its history as an oral language has led to several different orthographic interpretations of the language (see Table 1). Add to this Supa's status as a self-taught learner of Spanish, and the difficulty of maintaining a standard Spanish orthography becomes clear. As stated in the communiqué published by the Catholic University, Supa's orthography in Spanish shows elements indicative of a Quechua native speaker, including the substitution of <o> for <u> and <e> for <i>. The phonemes represented by these letters are much more flexible in Quechua from an acoustic standpoint, showing a tendency to overlap in some instances (cf. Pérez, Acurio & Bendezú, 2008; see Table 2).

Table 1. Quechua orthographies in three Peruvian varieties
AyacuchoCuzcoSouthern QuechuaTranslation
  1. (Adapted from Cerron-Palomino, 1994)

Upyayuhyayupyay“to drink”
Utqausqhautqha“fast”
Llamkayllank'ayllamk'ay“to work”
Ñuqanchiknuqanchisñuqanchik“we (inclusive)”
-chka--chka--sha-(progressive infix)
Punchawp'unchayp'unchaw“day”
Table 2. Comparison of Supa's orthography to standard Spanish orthography
Supa's orthographyStandard Spanish orthography (translation)
rePoBlecaRepública (republic)
discotiodiscutió (discussed)
ovohubo (there was)
vernesviernes (Friday)

Sociolinguistically speaking, Quechua and its speakers exist in a stigmatized state relative to native Spanish speakers in Peru (Hornberger, 1997). Though Quechua has official status, along with other indigenous languages in Peru, in practice Spanish is the preferred, prestige language for communication in politics and the media. Representation of Peru's indigenous peoples in congress is small but growing, with 15 of the 120 members of congress identifying themselves as indigenous in 2010, according to the website of the Grupo Parlamentario Indígena del Perú (Indigenous Parliamentary Group of Peru). Nevertheless, in an official context the use of languages other than Spanish is frowned upon; for example, in 2006 Supa and her indigenous colleague Maria Sumire received criticism from their Spanish-speaking counterparts for taking the oath of office in Quechua.

Even among native speakers of Spanish, standard Spanish orthography can be troublesome, especially in a CMC context. Yus (2002) noted the tendency to save time on the keyboard by avoiding such standard elements as written accent marks, or substituting <k> or <q> for words that require <qu>. Negrón (2009) termed this type of substitution “deviant Spanish,” explaining that “they are deviant in the sense of diverging from standard Spanish orthography, but in many ways they are quite ordinary […] the use of some deviant spellings suggests a need for speed and efficiency” (p. 11). Mayans (2002) examined how this need for efficiency has recently evolved into a more accepted Spanish orthography for the purposes of CMC, stating that “there exists a very high voluntary nature in most user normative ‘non-corrections’ […] most chat users want to show that they write ‘badly’” (p. 110–112, our emphasis).

Thus, in this article we examine what happened when a relatively established alternative orthography such as Spanish CMC came into contact with a discussion on nonstandard orthography. Contrary to our assumptions that commenters would be more careful with their own orthographies when writing on this topic, we discovered that many of those who used Spanish CMC orthography were in fact critical of Supa's own Quechua-influenced Spanish orthography, while those in support of Supa used a normative or hyper-normative Spanish orthography. In the paragraphs below we analyze some of these comments as performative acts of positioning to shed some light on this apparent contradiction.

Typology of Spanish CMC and Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

The use of alternative orthographies in Spanish CMC seems to be uniformly present in different varieties of the language. Several studies, regardless of the country where the data was collected (Belda, 2002; Mayans, 2002; and Yus, 2002), as well as our data from Peruvian users, show that Spanish CMC orthography follows similar patterns. There have even been recent attempts at standardization, including an online dictionary of popular abbreviations in CMC Spanish for text messaging purposes. Like Anis (2007), we caution that our own typology reflects “not a standard, but a set of procedures” that users may or may not adopt when writing in a CMC context (p. 88). We can group these procedures into two major categories: phonetic simplification through the substitution of certain graphemes, and the inversion of graphemes. Examples of these categories and other phenomena are listed below in Table 3.

Table 3. Typology of Spanish CMC orthography
Graphemes substituted or invertedAllophone RepresentedSource
<q> or <k> for ‘que’ or ‘qu-’[k]Our data; Yus, 2002, Stewart, 1999; Belda, 2002
<y> for <ll>[□]Our data
Inversion <s>, <c>, <z>[s]Our data; Belda, 2002
Inversion intervocalic <b> <v>[ß]Our data; Belda, 2002
Inversion of <j> <g>[x]Our data
Elongation/extension of exclamation points, vowels, etc. Our data; Yus, 2002
No written accent marks Our data; Mayans, 2002

As Belda (2002), Mayans (2002), and Yus (2002) pointed out, the main reason for using these characteristics is to save time when writing. However, we found that the inclusion of these elements in an online discussion about orthography merited its own analysis. The asynchronous nature of posting a comment in an online forum means that commenters have the option of editing their comments before posting; Anis (2007) stated that “neography is marginal” in this environment in a French context (p. 90), while Nishimura (2007) noted that “concerns about who reads the messages […] may influence [electronic bulletin board] message contributors and their discourse” (p. 165). Therefore, we might assume that those who opted for Spanish CMC orthography in our data either adopted it for reasons of expediency in publishing their message, or may have used this orthography for strategic or performative reasons.

The majority of posted comments on the RPP web site used standard Spanish orthography, albeit usually without written accent marks, which again may have been due to reasons of expediency or the use of a non-Spanish keyboard. Some comments had spelling errors that were not related to CMC, which we do not examine except with respect to the critiques of these comments. Below, we examine the following categories; those comments that used Spanish CMC orthography in a consistent or extreme manner; those comments that used a hyper-normative Spanish orthography to respond to and critique CMC orthography comments or those with minor spelling mistakes; and those comments that used non-standard orthography, but were at the same time atypical of Spanish CMC orthography.

Use of Spanish CMC orthography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

Of the comments using Spanish CMC orthography, the most common alternative spelling was the substitution of the graphemes <q> or <k> for the word “que” (that, what or who). Commenter Sajín provided an example:

Por favor! yo tengo dere[c]ho a que me represente alguien q [que] minimamente sepa esc[r]ibir! SAJIN| 2009-04-24 | 08:31:37

Please! I have the right to be represented by someone who at least knows how to write!6

For proponents of standard Spanish orthography, Sajin's comment, with its substitution of “q” for “que,” could be seen as ironic in its assertion that Sajin be represented by “someone who at least knows how to write.” We note that this seeming obliviousness to the potential audience scrutiny mentioned by Nishimura (2007) is present in most of the comments that use CMC orthography, such as JuankA's comment below:

Humillacion…?? la unica humillacion aki [aquí] y con el respeto ke [que] se merece la sra. congresista, es ke [que] sepa poco o nada de redacccion.... y no vengan con ke [que] esto es racismo o discriminacion, conozco gente muy humilde, pero culta.... asi ke [que] seÑores a ponerse a repasar las reglas de ortografia… estamos en democracia y el diario puede publicar sin omision alguna. □ JuankA| 2009-04-23 | 20:50:55

Humiliation? The only humiliation here, and with the respect that the congresswoman deserves, is that she knows little or nothing about writing, and don't say that's racism or discrimination, I know very humble, but educated people…so sirs go review your spelling rules, we are in a democracy and the paper can publish without any omission.

In the above example JuankA consistently used the letter “k” to replace the standard Spanish “qu” while asserting, like Sajin, that Supa “knows little or nothing about writing.” Both DeBruyne (1995) and Stewart (1999) noted the use of “k” in anti-establishment discourse, suggesting that its use may connote a rejection of mainstream values. Sajín and JuankA's substitution of nonstandard letters for the standard “qu” indexed a reflexive positioning that privileges the knowledge of Spanish CMC orthography over any possible retribution for their choice of a nonstandard form. Davies and Harré (1990) noted, “once having taken up a particular position as one's own, a person inevitably sees the world from the vantage point of that position” (p. 46). The commenters above positioned themselves as knowledgeable users of Spanish CMC orthography, and may even have strategically performed an anti-establishment Spanish CMC identity, while at the same time asserting that Supa's own orthography indicated a lack of education.

We found more extreme examples of Spanish CMC orthography beyond the “k”/“qu” substitution. PajaBrava's comment was particularly notable:

Con ezte [este] insidente no ce [se] esta mazillando [masillando] al idioma quechua idioma ofisial [oficial] del perú, lo ke [que] ce [se] esta cuestionando es el nibel [nivel] cultural de mamacha supa. es nuestra realidad, tenemos los congrecistas [congresistas] y el precidente [presidente] que merezemos [merecemos]…de acuerdo que haya un filtro y esto deve [debe] ser la educasión [educación]. un analfaveto [analfabeto] no puede ser un lejislador [legislador]. PajaBrava | 2009-04-23 | 19:39:20

With this incident we are not slaughtering Quechua, an official language in Peru, what we are questioning is Mama Supa's level of culture. It's our reality, we have the congress members and the president that we deserve, of course there should be a filter and that should be education. An illiterate can't be a legislator.

In PajaBrava's comment we see not only the <k>/<qu> substitution but also stylized substitutions or switches between <s>, <c> and <z> for the voiceless apical-alveolar fricative [s], as well as switches between <b> and <v> for voiced bilabial aspirant [ß] and <j> and <g> for voiceless velar fricative [x]. The consistent replacement of standard graphemes with their non-standard counterparts shows both creativity and forethought on PajaBrava's part. The excessiveness of this orthography at first glance seems to indicate a type of performance; indeed, the nickname PajaBrava, which alludes to a Peruvian slang term for masturbation, suggests that this orthography was a deliberate display. However, within this orthography PajaBrava offered a relatively nuanced argument against Hilaria Supa, questioning not only her “level of culture” but also the lack of an educational “filter” for members of congress. From this vantage point it could be that, like JuankA, PajaBrava adopted the subject position of one knowledgeable in Spanish CMC orthography and was solely using this orthography to make his argument. In the words of Davies and Harré (1990), “Participants […] may simply regard their words as ‘the way one talks’ on this sort of occasion” (p. 49, their emphasis). Regardless of PajaBrava's own intentions, which are decidedly ambiguous, we will show below that the notion of how one talks, or writes, during this event was interpreted in a different way by other commenters, leaving some commenters, PajaBrava included, to be repositioned by others as uneducated.

Most of the examples that showed a more extreme type of Spanish CMC orthography were also anti-Supa in content. Those commenters who were supportive of Supa either used CMC orthography to a much lower degree (e.g., only using <q> for ‘qu-’ or ‘que’), or, more interestingly, changed to standard Spanish orthography in later comments. An example of the latter is Pepino, who began his comments using Spanish CMC orthography but later changed to standard orthography, as seen in his two comments below:

Me parese [parece] una tomteria [tontería] eztar [estar] comemtando [comentando] esto.... lo que inporta [importa] son las ideas… al final todos somos el resultado de la edukacion [educación] y oportunidades que tubimos [tuvimos] […] que sigan los prejuicios!! Pepino | 2009-04-23 | 14:54:16

I think it's stupid to be commenting on this…what is important are ideas, at the end we are all the result of the education and opportunities we had […]keep the prejudices coming!

El congreso no es una escuelita de ortografia.... si lo fuera, un criterio de evaluacion seria saber leer y escribir… y no lo son.... ademas nosotros los elegimos. Pepino | 2009-04-23 | 14:58:12

Congress isn't a spelling school…if it were, one of the criteria for evaluation would be to know how to read and write…and they don't…and besides, we elected them.

In Pepino's first comment he used the same inversions of graphemes as PajaBrava, as well as some switches between the nasals <m> and <n>, which have not been mentioned in previous literature but that we have witnessed in some informal orthography in Andean Peru as well as in Supa's own notes. Like PajaBrava, Pepino offered a fairly nuanced critique of the Supa situation, arguing, “We are all the result of the education we had.” Pepino's argument, “what is important are the ideas,” written in non-standard orthography, showed elements of performativity as he demonstrated the importance of ideas compared to how they might be rendered through non-standard orthography.

Four minutes later, however, Pepino modified his orthography, showing a reflexive positioning as knowledgeable of standard Spanish orthography, versus an alliance to the CMC community. His subsequent comments (not transcribed here) continued this reflexive positioning. Although we can only speculate on the reasons for this change in orthography, it could be that Pepino noticed other supporters of Supa using standard orthography, and decided to align himself orthographically as well as ideologically to these commenters. He may have also noticed the critiques of CMC orthographies and spelling errors that were beginning to appear on the forum, and changed his own orthography in order to avoid these critiques. In the section below we examine these critiques, many of which were rendered in a performed, hyper-normative orthography.

Hyper-normative Spanish orthography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

Although many commenters using Spanish CMC orthography were not taken to task for this usage, there were several challenges that merit discussion, especially with respect to the interactive positionings that occurred as a result. A commenter named TERMINATOR, for example, responded to PajaBrava's comment from the previous section with the following:

Tu estas peor que la supa!!!!!!!!!!…jajajaja!!!!!!!! TERMINATOR | 2009-04-23 | 20:45:21

You are worse than that Supa! hahahaha!

In this comment we see TERMINATOR's own use of CMC (exaggeration of exclamation marks and the Spanish onomatopoetic symbols for laughter) to ridicule PajaBrava's comment. Though PajaBrava may have positioned himself as knowledgeable enough in Spanish CMC to offer an argument against Supa using that type of discourse, TERMINATOR repositioned PajaBrava's comment as coming from someone uneducated, comparing PajaBrava unfavorably to Supa. As Davies and Harré (1990) noted, “One's beliefs about the sorts of persons, including oneself, who are engaged in a conversation are central to how one understands what has been said” (p. 58). In this example TERMINATOR indexed PajaBrava's orthography, rather than the content of his comment, in order to position him as uneducated.

Shortly thereafter, commenter Sebaspaz stepped into the exchange to offer his own admonition of TERMINATOR's writing skills:

¡eh! terminator, ¡los signos de admiración e interrogación de nuestro idioma castellano van en el inicio y término de la oración! Sebaspaz |2009-04-24 | 10:41:48

Hey! terminator, exclamation points and question marks in our Spanish language go at the beginning and end of the sentence!

With this comment Sebaspaz offered a repositioning of TERMINATOR's stance as someone capable of critiquing PajaBrava's CMC orthography. Sebaspaz carefully used written accents, as well as opening and closing exclamation points—standard in Spanish orthography, yet rarely used in any Spanish online environment—to call into question TERMINATOR's own abilities in their common language. The brief rebuke, although it did little to alter TERMINATOR's own performance in subsequent comments, indexed this particular performance as uneducated, as well as diminished TERMINATOR's original positioning of PajaBrava as “worse than Supa.”

We see a similar trend in an exchange between commenters nikky and JuanK. Nikky's comments adopted some elements of Spanish CMC orthography, such as the excessive use of exclamation marks and the sole use of uppercase letters:

al campo a trabajar con pico y lampa indigena bruta, que diablos haces en el congreso, carajo!!!!! que verguenza el nivel del congreso!!!!! cambien esa constitucion que hace quedar en ridiculo al pais, que verguenza tener esa indigena representando que? india apestoza!!! nikky | 2009-04-25 | 12:42:16

To the countryside to work with a pick and shovel stupid Indian, what the hell are you doing in Congress, shit!!!! The level of Congress is an embarrassment!!! Change the constitution so this country doesn't look so ridiculous, what an embarrassment to have this Indian representing what? Stincy [sic] Indian!

Commenter JuanK responded with a careful critique in hyper-normative Spanish:

Señor experto en el idioma castellano, culto, inteligente y prosapio humano, unas pequeñas observaciones a vuestro tan florido léxico 1. las palabras deben ser escritas en minúsculas y mayúsculas. es mala educación escribir todo en mayúscula. 2. la rae establece claramente que las palabras deben ser tildadas cuando así lo ameriten, ya sea en minúsculas o mayúsculas. 3. en el castellano, los signos de interrogación y admiración, se cierran y se abren. mantener abiertos estos signos, como vuestra merced pretende, denotan ciertos gustos literarios. 4. no se escribe “apestoza” sino “apestosa” … y por cierto, ¿cómo sabe que es apestosa? JuanK |2009-04-26 | 11:02:33

Mr. Expert in the Spanish language, cultured, intelligent human being of good lineage, a few small observations on thy flowery lexicon: 1. words must be written in upper and lower case, it is a sign of bad education to write everything in upper case. 2. the RAE [Royal Academy of the Spanish Language] clearly establishes that words must have written accent marks as merited, whether they be in upper or lower case. 3. in Spanish, exclamation points and question marks close and open. Maintaining these signs open, as your mercy pretends, denotes certain literary tastes. 4. it is not written “apestoza” [stinky] but “apestosa”…and, of course, how do you know she is stinky?

In his response, JuanK showed a stylized spelling and lexicon, as well as an excessively formal and flourished register. Instead of indexing an affiliation with CMC users—an affiliation that his nickname “JuanK,” a phonetic rendering of the Spanish nickname JuanCa [Juan Carlos], indicates—he performed an eloquent, educated response, in this way drawing the focus to the orthography in nikki's comment, rather than the content. In reflexively positioning himself as educated, JuanK relegated nikky's outraged comment to a stylistic exercise, rendering whatever point nikky was trying to make invalid in the face of such “flowery lexicon.” His excessive formality was distinctly ironic in tone; this irony, similar to the commenters in Myers (2010), “dramatizes an opposing position to undermine it” (p. 273).

Like Pepino's first use of nonstandard orthography to illustrate “what is important are the ideas,” JuanK's use of hyper-normative Spanish orthography and register illustrate how some commenters used the forum for “expressive-creative positioning” (Walker, 2009). Further examples of this expression and creativity that do not follow normative or CMC Spanish orthographies are in the following section.

Non-standard, non-CMC orthography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

A few comments in the Supa forums show a use of non-standard Spanish that does not correspond with the CMC typology. Aragorn, for example, indexed Hilaria Supa's own orthography in his comment:

A supa se le critica su mala ortografia y baja produccion legislativa ¡¡que se aguante!!! es congresista y debe rendir cuentas de sus defectos y virtudes, como todos, ¿hay que tolerarla por ser mamacha ignorante?? ¡¡jostisia papay!!!□ aragorn |□2009-04-24 | 11:33:42

They critique Supa's bad spelling and low legislative production, deal with it! she's a congresswoman and she should take account of her defects and virtues, like everyone, do we have to tolerate her for being an ignorant Indian woman? “Justice, my father”!

Aragorn's use of non-standard spelling in “jostisia papay” was most likely a mocking performance of Supa's own orthography. The substitution of the grapheme <o> for <u> in “jostisia” (justicia) alluded to a Quechua-influenced pronunciation, while the word “papay” added the Quechua possessive suffix –y to the Spanish word “papá,” suggesting an imaginary plea by Supa to her elders. This use of “mock Quechua,” similar to Hill's (1995, 1998) and Barrett's (2006) research on “mock Spanish,” showed a disregard for producing an utterance in correct Quechua (the Quechua word for father is “tayta”), thus indexing certain stereotypes of Quechua speakers in Peru as incapable of speaking standard Spanish.

Other nonstandard spellings in the comments, such as the following by TEMPLARIO, hinted at the more politicized understory of Quechua's position in Peru:

Hilaria supa es analfabeta del queswa [quechua ] y del castellano del vasto territorio del tawantinsvyv [tawantinsuyo] inka [inca]… TEMPLARIO | 2009-04-24 | 08:43:56

Hilaria Supa is illiterate in the Quechua and in the Spanish of this vast Inca territory of the four conjoined points

TEMPLARIO used the Supa event to remind his fellow commenters about Tawantinsuyo, the four main cities that together surround the ancient Inca empire. His nonstandard spellings of “quechua,” “tawantinsuyo” and “inca” did not reference Spanish CMC but rather the fact that Quechua, traditionally an oral language, is subject to varied interpretations of its own orthography (Cerron-Palomino, 2004; Weber, 1998). TEMPLARIO thus positioned himself as one knowledgeable of Quechua's history in Peru, performing an alternative orthography while at the same time positioning Supa as less knowledgeable of these variants.

In the above comments we see stylized performances of Spanish CMC and hyper-normative orthography, as well as other alternative orthographies that do not appear to index either CMC or a traditionally educated community. In the discussion to follow we pay closer attention to what beliefs or ideologies these performances might further index.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

The use of alternative orthographies and metalinguistic critique in comments about the Hilaria Supa story reflects the ongoing debate in the Spanish-speaking world regarding appropriate forms of discourse in a CMC context. The examples of what we term Spanish CMC orthography are notable not only in their consistent use of certain alternative spellings, but also in the nuanced arguments contained therein. Even as commenters such as Sajin, JuankA and PajaBrava argued for a congresswoman who consistently follows the norms of orthography, they perhaps inadvertently subverted these arguments through use of Spanish CMC procedures in a public forum. At the same time commenters such as TERMINATOR, SebasPaz and JuanK used differing degrees of standard Spanish orthography to position those commenters whose orthographies they deemed inappropriate for the forum as uneducated and therefore not to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, commenters such as Aragorn and TEMPLARIO explored alternative, non-CMC orthographies to either mock Supa or index knowledge of marginalized variants of Quechua. The result is what Davies and Harré (1990) term a “weaving together” of contradictory subject positions, as the commenters, each coming from a different perception of “the way one talks” in an online forum, both positioned themselves and others on a hierarchy of education according to their orthographies (p. 59; p. 49). Because a standard Spanish orthography prevailed in these discussions, the presence of alternative orthographies, or even minor misspellings, was enough to jolt certain commenters into corrective action.

The implications for Spanish CMC and what it means to be educated in Peru cannot necessarily be generalized, given the specific nature of the topic, but may include the following observations. First, it appears that Spanish CMC is making its entry into what was previously deemed an area for standard Spanish orthography: that of commenter threads in asynchronous forums. However, this appears to be true only in a South American context; while commenter threads on news sites such as Peru&s El Comercio and Argentina&s La Nación contain several of the examples of Spanish CMC orthography discussed above, comments on other Spanish language news sites, such as Spanish paper El País and Mexican paper El Universal still subscribe to the rules of standard Spanish orthography. Second, and despite the presence of Spanish CMC in these forums, as well as in other venues such as SMS and chat, to be educated in Peru still seems to imply using normative, and even hyper-normative, orthographies. Commenters who were supportive of Hilaria Supa's capacity as a congresswoman chose their orthography carefully, opting overwhelmingly for Spanish norms. At the same time some users of alternative, non-CMC orthographies indexed an association of Quechua with a lack of education through the use of these orthographies. It appears, therefore, that, at least in the Peru and the Peruvian diaspora represented by this forum, both non-normative Spanish and Quechua is subject to a negative positioning by those speakers who view themselves as “educated.” A comment by Sebapaz illustrates this positioning:

Primero lo primero, es racismo (no razismo), y el verbo es coger (no cojer). aclarado eso, no dudo de tu capacidad porque hayas escrito mal esas dos palabras, a cualquiera le pasa, yo soy una verdadera bestia con las tildes, nunca le atino. y mira, así y todo termine mi maestría y estoy haciendo el doctorado […] Sebaspaz | 2009-04-24 | 09:48:21

First of all, it's racism (not razism), and the verb is coger [to get] not cojer. Having cleared that up, I don't doubt your capacity because you wrote those two words badly, it happens to everyone, I'm terrible with accent marks, I never get them, and look, even so I finished my masters and am getting my doctorate […]

In this comment Sebaspaz critiqued the orthography of a fellow commenter, offering some corrections while assuring the commenter that s/he did not think less of him/her for these errors. Yet Sebaspaz did feel the need not only to make these corrections, but also to index his/her high level of education (“even so I finished my masters and am getting my doctorate”). This positioning is similar to the comment described above by JuanK, who appealed to a formal register in order to critique nikky's comment, as well as other commenters not discussed here, who reference Cervantes and other cultural symbols that index a complete education in Spanish. Interestingly, it is the commenters most in Supa's camp who resorted to this type of positioning. In the RPP forums, support for an indigenous, self-taught learner of Spanish apparently means positioning oneself as completely opposite of that experience, while those critiquing this support felt able to express themselves in a wider variety of alternative orthographies.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

The photo of Peruvian congresswoman Hilaria Supa's notes from a congressional meeting generated a flurry of comments in online Peruvian discussions regarding Hilaria Supa's orthography and qualifications. Through their comments on sites such as rpp.com.pe, commenters not only argued for or against Supa, but also positioned themselves as knowledgeable of CMC orthography and standard Spanish orthography. While most commenters used the latter, several commenters cultivated a Spanish CMC identity through alternative orthographies, even when their comments were against Supa's own orthographic representations. At the same time, several of these CMC-oriented commenters were rebuked by their counterparts, some of whom cultivated deliberately formal registers in hyper-normative Spanish orthography, complete with opening exclamation points and written accent marks, both of which are rarely used in Spanish online communication. Moreover, other commenters used more strategic versions of Spanish orthography to mock Hilaria Supa's alternative orthography.

For most of these commenters, the association between education and standard orthography is still strong, even among those who are supportive of Supa. However, Spanish CMC orthography is slowly encroaching on asynchronous venues, which will continue to generate discussion on whether or not this orthography poses a threat to normative Spanish in Peru and other Spanish-speaking countries. Regardless of this debate, our data shows that the choice to use standard Spanish orthography, Spanish CMC orthography, or another alternative is an important tool in the performance of particular identities and the positioning of one's self and others on the continua of formal education, CMC knowledge, and ideologies of language in Peru. There appears to be a relationship between ideology and orthography, although not the one that we had originally assumed. In future research we will examine further the notion of education, language ideologies, and racism through a content analysis of the comments produced during the Supa event.

Notes
  1. 1

    All translations from Spanish are ours.

  2. 2

    The notion of performativity in CMC has been analyzed previously, mostly with respect to the use of humor and language play, in Danet, Ruedenberg-Wright and Rosenbaum-Tamari (1997), Katsuno and Yano (2007), and Mayans (2001), among others.

  3. 3

    Jaffe (2009), Meyers (2010) and others have discussed these acts of positioning as stance- taking, a theory that incorporates many similar concepts.

  4. 4

    Hilaria Supa was a congresswoman from Peru's department of Cuzco from 2006 to 2011.

  5. 5

    A gloss of Supa's notes, along with a transcription of the notes in standard Spanish orthography and English translation, is available in Appendix 1.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies
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Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies

Jueves De abril – 16 – 2009 Pleno Del Comgreso De la rePoBleca si Discotio lasituasion de Brai Ovo Muchos Participasion custo No Presencia Del preme menistro Para subre Brasy subreatentado pindio el pleno. Vernes De abril 17 2009…

Jueves de abril-16-2009-Pleno del congreso de la república se discutió la situación de VRAE, hubo mucha participación, costó en la presencia del primer ministro para sobre VRAE sobre atentado pidiendo el pleno. Viernes de abril 17 2009…

Thursday of April 16 2008-meeting of the congress of the republic the VRAE [Apurimac and Ene River Valleys] situation was discussed there was a great deal of participation the prime minister was present asking those present [about the VRAE attack]. Friday of April 17 2009…

Biographies

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Theoretical framework and method of analysis
  5. Participants and Background
  6. Typology of Spanish CMC and Results
  7. Use of Spanish CMC orthography
  8. Hyper-normative Spanish orthography
  9. Non-standard, non-CMC orthography
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Appendix: Appendix 1: Gloss of Hilaria Supa's Notes, Transcription in Standard Orthography and Translation
  14. Biographies
  • Michele Back (micheleb@ucr.edu) is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California, Riverside's Department of Hispanic Studies. Her research focuses on the use of minority languages such as Quechua in transnational communities and CMC environments. She is currently conducting research on ideologies of race, language and education in online discussion forums and on Twitter.

  • Miguel Zepeda (zepedit@gmail.com) is pursuing a Master of Arts in Hispanic Literature,Linguistics and Civilization at the California State University in San Bernardino. His research focuses on the historical evolution of Spanish and other Romance languages and the presence of archaic Spanish in contemporary communities.