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Language and the Internet Hardcover – 31 Aug 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (31 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521868599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521868594
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 444,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

David Crystal works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. He published the first of his 100 or so books in 1964, and became known chiefly for his research work in English language studies. He held a chair at the University of Reading for 10 years, and is now Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor.

Product Description


"This book provides an important look at how the Internet has affected our use of language. To my knowledge, there are no other comparable books available on this subject. Issues of language are certainly treated in many other books about the Internet, but this one features linguistics as its main topic. The book will be an important contribution." Patricia Wallace, Ph.D., Director, Information Services and Instructional Technologies Center for Talented Youth, The John Hopkins University Author, The Psychology and the Internet

Book Description

In recent years, the Internet has come to dominate our lives. Covering a range of genres, including e-mail, chat, and the Web, David Crystal reveals how the Internet is radically changing how we use language. Engaging and accessible, this book will continue to fascinate anyone who has used the Internet.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book explores how we use language in the internet. it begins with a general introduction, describing lingusitics in general and sociolinguistics in particular. It discusses the internet in general and four particular aspects - email, chatgroups, virtual worlds (in multiplayer games) and the web.
The author clearly knows sociolinguistics very well and it is worthwhile reading the book just for that. However, his knowledge of the internet is weaker and often he relies on secondhand information that he is not able to evaluate well. This shows up in some of the more extensive quotes, repeated without much critical evaluation. For example, he frequently quotes 'Wired Style', only once (I think) refers to the Jargon File (without even working out who esr is) and doesn't mention RFC 1855.
There is not much original research here. For example, the chapter on email is based mainly on the author's own email correspondence, which is bound to be atypical. It would have been much more interesting to see if different communities, for example sampled from mailing lists, really used different varieties of language.
In some places it would be hard to distinguish between the language used in the internet and the language used by social scientists to describe the internet, between 'trolling' or 'boxen' and 'computer mediated communication' or 'cyberculture'. In others the author seemed unaware of features of the internet. For example, he does not seem to be aware that users can control how web pages appear or list emails by thread. Occasionally he gets terms wrong.
This is not a book to buy if you wish to learn the language (or rather languages) of the internet, but it is a very readable introduction to sociolinguistics applied to technology with some very plausible conclusions about where and how the internet will affect our use of language.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paige on 6 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have often referred to this book in my studies on computer-mediated communication; because it blends sociolinguistics with case studies (as one reviewer has pointed out, Crystal's own experience), it is useful for those interested in CMC and language use, and a quick look at the bibliography reveals further points of discussion and research. Major theorists, such as Grice (and his maxims of conversation) are mentioned, and even though Crystal says that maxims and conventions are in the process of being adapted and will likely continue to be adapted, it serves as a 'jumping-off point' for what the person's own interests of study are. I, for one, found the tables of spoken and written language criteria, as applied to several "Netspeak" media forms, quite elucidating.

I found this book reasonably approachable, and the examples given help 'bridge the gap' between those in communications or language studies and those who might only have a passing interest or knowledge and are looking for more information.
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4 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Oct. 2001
Format: Hardcover
The areas covered within this superbly authorthed book luckily appeared to match the criteria within my syllabus. The information was well presented with interesting diagrams and information which made it far more easier than other books to understand. Im am sure that this source of information could be credited towards my understanding of the course i was taking at the time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
needs to be retitled "Internet for Dummies" 14 Feb. 2002
By "jlsolber" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm a graduate student with a focus in computer technologies and writing, so I approached this book with an attitude of "what can I learn about language and the Internet?" The answer, unfortunately, was: not much. If you're at all familiar with the Internet and use email regularly, most of Crystal's book will just be covering a lot that you already know. Crystal gives the impression of having just discovered the Internet--e.g., he voices frustration at the number of non-relevant hits from a search on a word like 'depression', something that most of us have figured out strategies to deal with (and which he, as a linguist, might find interesting). Some of the solutions he suggests to the search-engine problem are already out or in beta, yet he doesn't show any familiarity with such developments.
Crystal admits up front that his aims with this book are modest -- basically, he wants to ask whether the Internet has affected language and language use. Um, well, yeah it has.
But he never answers the question that my undergraduate English professor made us ask of all of our paper theses--So what? Why/how do these changes matter? What larger significance do they have? As a linguist, Crystal isn't perhaps so interested in social or political commentary, but never was there such a disembodied look at language. It's as though because the words appear on a screen, we don't need to think about the social, political, or economic pressures that influence these "language communities" he's looking at. He admits that market forces are driving which languages get to be used in the "global village" but then acts as if that fact is of little consequence.
Crystal's method is best described as descriptive--but he doesn't have much to describe, as his sample for analysis includes his own email as well as that of his two children. And as far as I can tell, he doesn't attempt to tie in these changes to any kind of linguistic theory (with the exception of his use of Grice to explain the cooperative nature of conversation). I'm also struck by the lack of evidence that he's read in this area at all--no citation of Sherry Turkle, for example, whose work would have been informative for the whole chapter he spends on MUDs.
If you know next to nothing about Internet-related communication (email, web pages, MUDs) then this book would be a good introduction for you (hence the title of this post). Viewed as an very introductionary text, I'd probably give this a slightly higher rating, because it is clearly written.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
much-needed academic discussion of online language 23 April 2003
By Nadyne Richmond - Published on
Format: Hardcover
David Crystal, one of the world's eminent linguists, has given us a desperately-needed academic resource: this text. Although, as other reviewers have pointed out, some of the conclusions drawn are fairly obvious, this text is useful to have such conclusions stated concisely, in a single location, by a recognised linguist.
The book discusses the effects of the Internet on language, specifically English. Anyone who has spent any length of time online has noted that the language used online is a strange mix of formal and informal, abbreviations and highly-specialised jargon. How does this effect the language as a whole? Crystal does not pretend to answer this question, but raises questions for later research.
As with any book that discusses an aspect of the Internet, some pieces of the book are out-of-date. Search engines are more robust than when Crystal surveyed them. MUDs are essentially dead, replaced in part by massively-multiplayer online games that have their own linguistic ramifications.
In all, this book is an interesting and clearly-written broad introduction to the application of linguistics to the Internet. It is not an advanced text, although the nearly-exhaustive footnotes and citations are an excellent resource for a reader who would like to learn more.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Berglund Center for Internet Studies Review by Jeffrey Barlow 2 May 2011
By Berglund Center for Internet Studies - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Crystal is not only one of the most important authorities in this field, but also one of the few to seriously analyze the impact of the Internet from a linguistic perspective. In Language and the Internet we feel that we have his most important relevant book insofar as the Internet is concerned. While the book is relatively old (2001) we did not find it dated because of the strength of his original analysis. Part of the strength of the work is its breadth. Crystal points out that the Internet is not, in fact, a single medium, but the technology through which a number of linguistically distinguishable dialects such as email and chat rooms are conveyed to the reader...

For a full review see Interface, Volume 5, Issue 1.
What George Orwell is to "Newspeak", David Crystal is to "Netspeak." 24 Sept. 2012
By charlie - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Our digital world requires an equally adaptable language that bridges the gap between real world communication and our digital counterparts. Language and the Internet suggests that that gap is narrowing into a universal global entity. Like the telegraph, television, newspaper and other broadcasting inventions to appear within the last few centuries, the advent of the Internet takes the prefix "tele" to a whole new communicative level. "To broadcast over a distance" may be using the Grecian combining form a little too lightly. In today's Twitterverse, Facebook culture and blogosphere, conventional linguistic style and use have been transformed into what David Crystal has adeptly termed "Netspeak." Crystal acknowledges that linguistic consequences exists within the net, (which is by now a dated term) but the focus of Language and the Internet aims to investigate how the internet has impacted our perception and use of language on a global scale. The technologized language we use to communicate is constantly being augmented, dissected, invented and re-invented. These practices, in the eyes of many are a disastrous force especially in the wake of the "texting" age.
What I find most interesting about Crystal's approach to the early netspeak of chatrooms and electronic conferencing is that his research aims to reclaim the usefulness of linguistic adaptation. Through his scholarly citations, he discusses the formations of digital communities known as hyperpersonal vs. interpersonal or (face to face.) The use of these speech communities work to form an inclusive realm of "Netizens" or net/web users. The language expressed is comparable to regional dialects in that they are only accepted by certain people in certain locales. As chatrooms, e-mail and chat clients began as an early medium for hyperpersonal interactions, they have since blossomed into a cultural psycho-social phenomenon in which creativity is at the heart. Sure there is a lack of linguistic structure, form and spelling but is that necessarily a bad thing amongst new studies that suggest children may be less creative and less stimulated than ever before. For those who choose to embrace the digital era, there are might be more to say in terms of social progress than for those who reject it.
Yes, like many of the other reviews mentioned Language and the Internet can feel dated even though many of these studies have taken place within the last two decades. However many ways to interpret the material that Crystal presents, it is important to understand that the culmination of research highlights in one way or another the progressive tendencies of human nature. The only reason this serves as an introductory piece because of the principles of Moore's Law which states that the amount of processors on affordable CPU'S will double every two years. Within the past 10 years, the number of transistors in CPU'S has gone from 37.5 million to over 2.5 billion. While this type of tech speak is not contained in Crystal's account of digital language, it is an intriguing arena for debate. While written language has only gone though 3 revolutions over thousands of years, the digital revolution changes almost daily. The juxtaposition of language and digital technology opens up an intriguing discussion that begins more than a decade ago in Language and the Internet.
To add fuel to the fire, as I write this review, many of the commonly used terms we use today that pertain to the Internet are highlighted for spell check. As dictionaries add nearly 800 words a year, the majority of them will most certainly be Internet related.
My one major concern for this text is that as Moore's Law continues its reign on enabling better, faster and more efficient technologies, the terminology and certain examples will be obsolete and incredibly distant to even the current generation of young Internet users. For those who have been around during the dotcom era, this is a must read exploration into the technologized and digital direction that global language is taking.
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
New Styles for the New Medium 4 Feb. 2002
By Rob Hardy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Look at that next e-mail from someone you consider intelligent, and maybe you will see that little regard is paid to exact spelling, to punctuation, even to using capital letters. Are we becoming illiterates by means of the amazing changes the Internet has brought? Dr. David Crystal, who has produced many scholarly volumes such as _The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language_, uses the internet a lot, and has looked into the many forms of its use by other people. It is changing things, surely, but it is its own new medium drastically different from anything that has gone before, and Crystal says, "It shows language expanding richly in all sorts of directions." In _Language and the Internet_ (Cambridge University Press), Crystal surveys the language used in different branches of the Internet, and although he admits that some of his findings are going to be quickly dated because of the Internet's extreme rate of change, his book is a useful initial survey of Internet language, one upon which future studies will draw as a foundation.
The remarkable function of the Internet in linguistic communication stems from its not quite being speech and not quite being writing. Communication in chatgroups or MUD's, and to a lesser extent e-mail, is typed but is a good deal like speech, displaying the immediacy and flow of conversation. This is an entirely new way of communicating. It means that John's speech is typed one keystroke at a time, but appears to recipients all of a piece, with no way that a recipient can react to it while it is being typed. Unlike with speech, the sender cannot be clued by an "Uh-huh" to indicate that the speech in progress is being well received. The speed of such interactions, dependent on keystrokes and speed of the Internet at that particular time, means that the rhythm of interaction is not only slow, but irregularly and unpredictably so. If there are multiple users, everyone's speech is displayed along with everyone else's, with little of the ear's ability to tune into just one speaker. Taking turns in conversation, which we take for granted face-to-face or on the telephone, is disrupted, and no one can get cues from tone of voice. Crystal reviews many of the responses Internet users have developed to deal with the peculiarities of the new medium. There is a list of the famous "smileys" or "emoticons" which are punctuation marks used to simulate smiling faces, frowning faces, confusion, winking, and so on. Their linguistic interest is that they could have shown up earlier in written language; only with the immediacy of Net communication did smileys become a useful tool. He reviews ways in which content of this form of communication may be shaped by the new medium, and is dismissive of the current crop of style manuals that would impose rules on it.

This is an academic review, well referenced and footnoted, but Crystal's optimism and good humor abound. He has clarified many aspects of the styles and abbreviations one is likely to meet in e-communication, and he is documenting them, rather than trying to influence the style. And sometimes it is all amusingly above his head; check the footnote which ought to translate "Hay! Odz r he wen 2 Radio Hack 4 a nu crys 4 hiz rainbow box!" and you will find: "I don't understand it, either."
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