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Open Access The use of English in Dutch text messages as a function of communicative constraints

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The influence of English on other languages such as Dutch is still growing. But how does this influence show up in actual day to day verbal behavior? A promising domain to study this issue is texting by young adults. How often and in what ways do they use English in their digital messages? Are there context factors at work that make them rely less or more on English? In an experimental study the influence of two pragmatic factors has been assessed: social distance and subjective costs. How familiar is the sender with the receiver, and how intrusive is the message? In response to four sketches of a communicative situation, 38 young adults composed in all 148 text messages. Both pragmatic factors proved to be effective. English words and phrases were used most often in communicating with peers for a ‘light’ reason. When addressing more senior receivers with a rather intrusive message, English was used far less. In the undemanding situation English features outnumbered the Dutch ones; in the more demanding situation this pattern was reversed, now the Dutch features were the more frequent ones. The use of English showed a positional effect as well: it occurred for the most part at the beginning and ending of the message, leaving the core content almost untouched. Each of these effects shows that texters take into account several pragmatic considerations. If English is becoming an integral part of Dutch text messages, it seems to do so in a deliberate way.
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Keywords: WhatsApp; code switching; language borrowing; netspeak; pragmatics; texting; young adults

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Email: [email protected] 2: Email: [email protected] 3: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • Taal en Tongval is een wetenschappelijk tijdschrift over taalvariatie in Nederland en Vlaanderen, waarin ook aandacht wordt geschonken aan naburige taalgebieden en aan het Nederlands verwante talen. Alle vormen van variatie kunnen worden besproken zoals geografische, sociale, etnische, stilistische en diachrone variatie. Verder mogen daarbij ook alle aspecten van de menselijke taal aan de orde komen. Het blad staat zowel open voor empirisch werk als voor studies die een verbinding leggen tussen taalvariatie en theoretische taalkunde.

    Taal en Tongval publiceert bijdragen in het Nederlands, Engels, en Duits. In bepaalde gevallen kunnen ook artikelen in andere talen in overweging genomen worden, zoals Fries, Afrikaans en Frans.

    Taal en Tongval. Language Variation in the Low Countries is a journal devoted to the scientific study of language variation in the Netherlands and Flanders, in neighbouring areas and in languages related to Dutch. All types of variation are covered, including but not restricted to geographical, social, ethnic, stylistic and diachronic variation. Articles may deal with all aspects of human language. The journal welcomes both empirical work as studies linking language variation to developments in theoretical linguistics.

    Taal en Tongval welcomes contributions in Dutch, English and German. In certain cases we also consider articles in other languages, including Frisian, Afrikaans, and French.

    The journal is published in Open Access, with the following Creative Commons copyright license: Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

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