Social Networking Phenomenon In South Africa English Language Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The increasing popularity of Social networking phenomenon in the past few years in South Africa in which 80% internet users are engaged, both in their leisure time, and at work. However, there has been very little research on the linguistic impact of these sites on indigenous languages. In South Africa (SA) we have 11 official languages, IsiZulu and IsiXhosa are not only SA official languages but they are also most widely spoken in the country apart from English.

"Language is the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief, and behaviour can be experienced, explained, and shared. This sharing is based on systematic, conventionally used signs, sounds, gestures, or marks that convey understood meanings within a group or community."

"Language is regarded as 'static' means of communication. However every single language in the world is in evolution and needs to be developed in order to incorporate terms for new or borrowed technological concepts and material items." (Magagula, 2009)

Currently not much research has been carried in respect to indigenous language linguistic in SNS. The direct relationship between use of SNS and modification of written indigenous languages (isiZulu and isiXhosa) my not fully be understood, but further studies on social electronic communication reveal that being addicted to online social networks may result non-standard features of isiZulu and isiXhosa written work. "Some language researchers argue that language is deteriorating due to increased use in electronic communication" (Hamzah et al, 2007).

According to Ishizuka et al (2007) Social interaction among people is an essential part of every society, communicating with each other through multiple informative channels. Electronic communication places new challenge on written language by consisting features of both Informal speech and formal writing. As new communication technologies advance, also the increase on the use of SNS increases, lots of young teenagers are exposed to SNS. The increase on wap enabled cellphones and the increase on areas with 3G coverage makes things easy to use Cellphone to connect to the internet. Some SNS are directly built for mobile phones, you download and install the application on your phone, and all you need is "3G" coverage to use the application like MXit, Facebook, Twitter and many more. Internet chat has developed new conventions that are particular for this means of communication, such as a system of abbreviations and icons

"Examining the relationship between society and technological advancements such as the Internet is important, more specifically, how individuals react to computer-mediated communication" (Eller, 2005). There is a split between those who see SNS as good for writing and those who see it as bad. "On the bad side of SNS they believe that student writing is being stripped of the grammar, formality and standards that characterize notions of literacy" (Spatafora, 2008). SNS language does not always look like what we consider as traditional writing. SNS text often includes shortcuts for example (muzi), letters are removed (phuz'phume) letters used to express the way a word sound (c'ndic'we), and letter are capitalize to create emotions.

Because of the increase in popularity of SNS communication, there is a strong assumption that written formal language may begin to show features of language that are used when people are communicating to each other on SNS of which don't conform to the formally approved standards of written language. Tertiary students are more exposed to internet and are likely to show significance of using SNS. Therefore it is important to understand the extent of the impact that the use of SNS has on indigenous languages

1.2 Problem Statement

"Communication technology is changing things. Language is no exception. Some language researchers argue that language is deteriorating due to increased use in electronic communication". It is crucial to be clear about the factors that differentiate written and spoken language. Although language has always been changing, according to Biesenbach-Lucas and Wiesenforth (2001), due to developments in communication technology, its change has recently accelerated and led to interesting variations in written language use. For example, the evolution of an abbreviated language is due to the shortcomings and the technical restrictions of SNS as a means of communication.

On this research the main concern is on the language performance which refers to what speakers 'do' with their languages which is affected by factors such as social conditions. Languages are assets and a reflection of the rich diversity of the nation. Role of language is very important in promoting respect for people's human dignity, and realising the objective of the transformation process. The main concern is with correctness in spelling and punctuation, and with the 'moralistic' clarity in writing, and abuses in language that can mislead and confuse the public. The increasing dependence on technology for basic communication also highlights the importance of analysing how SNS are affecting daily processes. Many linguists conclude that a negative attitude towards non-standard speech and bilingualism is more decisive in determining school outcomes than actual linguistic differences (Romaine, 1994: 194).

There is an increase in usage of English lexical borrowings combined with certain changes such as prefixal and suffixal interferences such as iclinic instead of umtholampilo. "Lexical borrowing takes place when two or more different cultural groups and linguistic groups come into contact with each other" (Higa, 1979: 278). All the characteristics relating to either written or spoken language are generalizations, but nonetheless important, in order investigate the linguistic characteristics of SNS conversations. The problem arises, however, when noticing that SNS language also possesses several of the characteristics of speech. SNS conversations are time-governed, often expecting immediate responses like speech. They are transient because they can be deleted immediately. SNS conversation can contain smileys, which imitate facial expressions bringing the text closer to speech.

The type of isiZulu or isiXhosa used in SNS conversations is not the variety of isiZulu or isiXhosa most South Africans are familiar to. As has recently been argued, "the common perception that standard varieties are 'pure' and other varieties are 'impure' or 'improper' provides a basis for discrimination which can have serious consequences for young generation and language its self'. Many linguists conclude that a negative attitude towards non-standard speech and bilingualism is more decisive in determining future of indigenous languages in South Africa

1.3 Aim of the study

The principal aim of this dissertation is to investigate and evaluate the use of SNS by young generation and the impact it has on indigenous languages. It will examine existing literature on SNS and the current standard language features. This examination will identify the various standard features of language used on SNS. An analysis of SNS‟s will be performed to identify the impact they provide on language. An investigation will be carried out by means: survey that will be done on DUT Students. Resulting from these aims and objectives, a number of deliverables shall be presented.

These are set out as follows:

A report on SNS, use of SNS's, Language skills, respect for culture and the modification of indigenous languages on SNS conversation

An analysis and description of SNS‟s including their developer platform services.

A table each of the potential good and bad of a SNS conversation.

Results of the survey to be performed.

A conclusion outlining the outcome of the research project and areas of future work.

In order to achieve the objectives of the study, the characteristics of standard and non-standard language in general and standard and non-standard IsiZulu and IsiXhosa in particular are discussed

Hundred-eighteen tertiary students from all faculties in Durban University of Technology participated on this study. The participants included 30 students each year of study from first year to third year, on each year 15 female and 15 males were selected. The participants completed questionnaires, from which the use of social network, their language skills, respect for culture as well as their addiction on modifying IsiZulu and IsiXhosa language were determined.

This thesis is structured as follows Chapter two provides brief definition of terms used on within the research, basic concept of terminology used

Chapter two

Literature review

2.1 Introduction

This chapter aims to examine existing literature on social networking sites and their impact they have on language standard features. Section 2.2 provides a short overview of social networking sites, who uses them and what they use them for. 2.3 discuss the standard and non standard features of language. 2.4 discuss the possibility of deterioration of indigenous languages. Section 2.5 offers a conclusion to this chapter.

2.2 Social Networking Sites

Social networking online involves using Web sites to share information with others and connect with them by creating a profile. SNS allow users to add friends, send messages and comment on others' profile pages. Communicating with others is a key aspect of using SNS. SNS users may post public messages or may use bulletins or private messages to communicate with those on their friends list.

"Social networking websites function like an online community of internet users. Depending on the website in question, many of these online community members share common interests in hobbies, religion, or politics. Once you are granted access to a social networking website you can begin to socialize. This socialization may include reading the profile pages of other members and possibly even contacting them."

boyd and Ellison (2007) define SNSs as

"Web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system".

SNS's typically provide users with a profile space, facilities for uploading content (e.g. photos, music), messaging in various forms and the ability to make connections to other people. These connections (or „friends‟) are the core functionality of a social network site (Ellison et al, 2006, Donath & boyd, 2004)

"This ability to make connections or establish networks with people that one may be meeting for the first time through joining a group, raises a series of difficult issues in research into SNS, in that two terms 'social network sites' and 'social networking sites' are commonly found in the literature. Given this ambiguity, boyd and Ellison (2007) attempt to clarify the relationship between them: 'Networking' emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers. While networking is possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on many of them, nor is it what differentiates them from other forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC)… What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks. This can result in connections between individuals that would not otherwise be made, but that is often not the goal, and these meetings are frequently between 'latent ties'… who share some offline connection. On many of the large SNS, participants are not necessarily 'networking' or looking to meet new people; instead, they are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their extended social network. To emphasize this articulated social network as a critical organizing feature of these sites, we label them "social network sites" (boyd & Ellison 2007: n.p.)."(Harison and Thomas, 2009)

2.2.1 Who uses SNS'S and what do they use them for?

"Beyond profiles, uploading photos, friends, comments, and private messaging, SNSs vary greatly in their features and user base. Some have video-sharing capabilities; others have built-in blogging and instant messaging technology. There are mobile-specific SNSs (e.g., MXit), but some SNSs also support mobile interactions (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter). Many SNSs target people from specific geographical regions or linguistic groups."(Redmond, 2010)

According to Lampe et al. (2006), social networking sites may also serve a surveillance function, allowing users to "track the actions, beliefs and interests of the larger groups to which they belong"

According to Redmond (2010)

"young people are known to be some of the most likely to participate on some SNSs (e.g., Facebook's initial focus on college students and then high school students left out older people by design), suggesting that concentrating on adolescents and young adults is especially important if researchers are to gain a better understanding of how such sites are being incorporated into people's lives (Hargittai, 2007)."

SNSs users can range from young people attending secondary school, college and university, and right up to adults. It is common for SNSs to have a minimum age requirement such as Facebook who advice users must be at least 13 years of age to create an account and become a member (Facebook, 2010). Further on in this study the results of a survey which was carried out will provide more detailed information on users of SNSs in South Africa.

2.3 Theoretical background standard and non-standard features of language

"South Africa has eleven official languages, each of which has its own lexicon and grammar. The status of the standard variety of a language is usually provided by the education system (Jahr and Janicki, 1995: 30)."(Magagula, 2009)

Language is learned largely through formal education and is used for most written and formal spoken purposes. Language is viewed as a structural prerequisite for human interaction. Standard forms of any language are social constructs, that is, they are created by the dominant community members in the society in which the language is used (Wilson and Henry, 1998: 5 and Webb and Sure, 2000: 18).

2.3.1 Standard language

"The standard form of a language is based on the speech of the educated elite. The development of a standard is influenced by a great variety of complex factors. Mobility and the professions are some factors which tend to further the usage or non-usage of the standard language. Such factors tend to affect urban areas rather than rural areas."(Magagula, 2009)

Magagula (2009) further explains that standard language is the one used in dictionaries, grammar books and hand books because these documents are regarded as authorities on 'correct' usage of the language. Poole (1999: 111) identifies the following characteristics of a standard language:

It has been selected from among the varieties of the language.

It has been codified and it is suitable for use as an official language and written and teaching medium.

It has been accepted by the influential members of the community.

As it is codified, it serves as a literary language as it is perpetuated by the education system.

It tends to be used by conservative community members.

It can be used as a yardstick for assessing a person's correctness.

It becomes clear from the above characteristics of a standard language, that the standard language, which before was just a vernacular (that is, a non-standard variety), constitutes the linguistic repertoire of the community where it is used. It has been accepted by that community as a super-ordinate variety, irrespective of the vernaculars which individuals may use at home.

"A non-standard or dialect refers to a language associated with a regionally, or socially defined group of people (Makoni et al., 2003: 84). According to Wilson and Henry (1998: 14) differences found in a non-standard language variety have equivalents within the standard grammar. This means that non-standard variants are embedded within structurally equivalent grammars: standard and non-standard varieties are therefore merely dialects of the same language." (Magagula, 2009)

A snap shot on Facebook conversation which is one of the SNS is presented below on figure 1

Figure 1: Conversation between friends communicating on facebook

This above snap shot is a simplification of SNS's conversation, when SNS users are having conversation they do not seem to be using the same variety of standard features of language as taught in schools. "While there is always a difference between spoken and written language usage the dichotomy between common spoken isiZulu and standard isiZulu as taught in schools, is more profound." (Ndlovu, 2005: 4). Old generation (grand fathers and grand mothers) are, complaining that purity of indigenous languages is disappearing

Magagula (2009) on her research emphasize that one of the most important facts about language is that it is continuously changing. "Everyone knows that languages have changed throughout the course of history." It is easy to see from a distance in time that there are differences between the language that was used in olden days and present-day language.

"It can also be shown from close at hand that language is continuing to change in the present just as it did in the past. Old varieties are changing and new varieties are springing up. Pronunciations are changing, new words and word forms are being adopted and old ones adapted to new uses. Sometimes change is fast, and sometimes it is slow, and at any given time some linguistic structures are changing while others remain stable. Indeed, change seems to be inherent in the nature of language and there is no such thing as stable human language. It is also true that at any given time a language is variable. Languages are never uniform entities. They vary geographically and socially, and according to the situational contexts in which they are used, hence languages or dialects are variable and in a state of change (Milroy, 1992: 1)."(Magagula, 2009)

"All languages are important for the knowledge that they embody as expressions of life experiences and for the people who speak them. They are vehicles for storing and repeating a society's knowledge as well as purveyors of culture (Makoni, Smitherman, Ball and Spears, 2003: 86). This means that people should have sufficient knowledge of their language and be concerned that it is developed." (Magagula, 2009)

Language standardization is the process by which an authoritative language body, such asa government-appointed body, prescribes how a language should be written: that is, its orthography, how its sounds should be pronounced, how its words should be spelt, which words are acceptable in formal situations and what the appropriate grammatical constructions of the language are (Webb and Sure, 2000: 18). Standardization often establishes itself in urban centres and then spreads from them into the surrounding areas (Poole, 1999: 112). According to Stockwell (2002: 5), Milroy and Milroy (1999: 1-3) and Hudson (1980: 33) a standard language should have passed through the following four stages in the process of standardization:

Some agency such as an academy must have written dictionaries and grammar books to 'fix' and regulate the variety. Therefore the variety is largely codified through the education system and standardization depends on the existence of a written form of a language (Romaine, 1994: 84, 86). Language is a much more complex phenomenon than such things as table manners (Milroy and Milroy, 1999: 1-2). Therefore, the process of language standardization involves the suppression of optional variability in language and as a consequence, nonstandard varieties can be observed to permit more variability than standard ones. According to Hudson (1980: 114) "speech is social, the rules or skills for using it are for the most part learned from others, in just the same way that linguistic items are learned".

2.3.2 Non-Standard language

Non-standard variants are embedded within structurally equivalent grammars: standard and non-standard varieties are therefore merely dialects of the same language.

"Non-standard accents and other forms of linguistic diversity would be counter-productive in a society with a great deal of mobility (Chambers, 1995: 212, 230). On one hand, every language is flexible enough to admit new elements to enhance its efficiency (Webb and Sure, 2000: 66) and on the other hand its speakers often resist the newly formed terms". (Magagula, 2009)

Freudenberg (2009) conducted a research on the impact of SMS speak on written work of English first language and English second language on high school learners in Cape Town. Four classes of grade 8 and 11 were selected and the results showed that there is a correlation between the amount of exposure to SMS speak and the amount of time spent compiling SMS which result on the negative impact on written English language. Although the main focus of Freudenberg research was only focusing on English but it provides some evidence that irrespective of the language being used or written the SMS speak features are slowly creaping into school written work.

Lara (2005) revealed on her study "Instant message communication and its impact upon written language" revealed that there is a correlation between time spent communicating informal and language deconstruction fifty five AOL users, ten teachers from urban schools, ten from rural schools, ten professors from urban college, ten professors from rural colleges participated on her study

Research conducted by Nadine (2000) show that from economic stand-point instant messaging is not helping in writing, only four students participated on her study, their school work was observed than they were taken to focus group. Texting is not only positively associated with word reading ability, but that it may be contributing to reading development in a way that goes beyond simple phonologically based explanations. It was noted that there was no association found between overall texting use and the children's spelling and non-word reading scores. They also emphasis that, their findings is compatible with the conclusions of Ehri et al. (1988) that exposure to misspellings need not compromise children's learning of correct spelling. (Plester et al, 2009)

8 participants .Email can't be thought in black and white terms as either written language or spoken language. Even after a substantial inspection on the nature of email, it can be seen that email possesses both qualities. Certain parts of email can be identified as either writing or speech, though.

72 teenagers. The character and nature of IM uncovered revealed fluid mastery of the sociolinguistic resources in Community speech. Conclusion was made that IM, and perhaps computer-mediated communication more generally, is not the ruin of this generation at all, but an expansive new linguistic renaissance.

In the analyzed e-mails and SMS messages, results suggested that language use is adapted creatively to the particular needs of the electronic age. A number of linguistic features and strategies used by the e-mail and SMS writers such as abbreviations, spoken-like spelling, less attention to punctuation and capitalization, were well suited to the conditions of electric communication to reduce space, time and effort. If a user employs them to save a few precious seconds and shows little respect for the reader who is in a higher position, this is a human problem rather than a technology problem. Therefore, although the language change due to the advancements in electronic communication technology is inevitable, the negative impact on the written language has to do with the technology users not the technology itself. The electronic communication technology has just led to more creativity in the written language so that it can reduce space, effort, time and cost.

7 participant's four girls and three boys. Researcher Findings about the functions of IM in the lives participants tells something about the social subject constructed through IM and the changing nature of literacy practices. These changes in practices and identities have implications for the schooling of literacy.

It was found that the use of texting was, by and large, related to better informal writing. The negative associations between texting and literacy also appear to moderate to some degree by gender and by level of education in young adults. A thorough understanding of the impact of texting upon literacy probably will require consideration of the component skills involved in SMS use and language skills, as well as the functions for which both are used.

Crystal (2007) says that if we came to terms with the fact that language is changing, we could spend all the time developing methods of learning and teaching rather than complaining about the changes. The language reflects the reality of the time and therefore provides useful insight to social history. Further, he says that '[w]e need to be aware of the areas in the language that are in the process of changing, so that we can be alert to the possibilities of misunderstanding' (Crystal 2007: 90). Causing children to learn Standard English is an act of empowerment which will give them access to a whole world of knowledge and to an assurance of greater authority in their dealings with the world outside their own homes

2.4 Indigenous languages

An indigenous language is a language that is native to a region and spoken by indigenous peoples. Indigenous languages are arbitrary oral symbols by which a social group interacts, communicates and self-expresses. It enshrines the culture, customs and secrets of the people.

"This language would be from a linguistically distinct community that has been settled in the area for many generations. Indigenous languages may not be national languages, or may have fallen out of use, because of language deaths caused by colonization, where the original language is replaced by that of the colonists."

2.5 Conclusion

"Sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter allow users to seek out friends and interact with them in different ways." (Redmond, 2010). Besides providing basic communication capabilities some sites also provide other variety of applications such as sharing documents, sending virtual gifts, or gaming.

This chapter aimed to examine existing literature on social networking sites and their impact they have on language standard features. Section 2.2 provided a short overview of social networking sites, who uses them and what they use them for. Section 2.3 discussed the standard and non standard features of language. 2.4 discussed the possibility of deterioration of indigenous languages.

Chapter three

Research Methodology

3.1 Introduction

This chapter outlines and discusses the methodology and data collection methods which were employed in this research. It starts off with the discussion of the sampling procedures.In order to assess the impact that social network has on tertiary students written IsiZulu and IsiXhosa Language. It was considered necessary to investigate:

Use of Social Network sites

Language skills

Respect for culture

Modification of IsiZulu and IsiXhosa Language

3.2 Participants selection

The sample is the representative of the population as one of the defining characteristics of the population is that they have access to the internet. A sample studied falls within certain race being studied. "To ensure the validity of the study I considered a number of sampling factors which would impact on the study. One of these was representativeness."(Magagula, 2009) Leedy (1974: 152) maintains that the most important requirement for a sample is 'representativeness', which depends on a number of important factors. One of these factors, according to Leedy, is randomization. Bearing in mind Leedy's view, I proceeded to draw up my students sample population making use of randomization of the sample which ensured that every member of the population had an equal chance of being selected.

3.2.1 Characteristics of the participants and sample

Participants in this study where chosen using judgment sampling that is, measuring pre-selected students according to a number of criteria. The students were chosen according to their race, and their home language. The majority of the participants were all IsiZulu or IsiXhosa speakers. The other minority were participants who coming from different race but use IsiZulu or IsiXhosa as their home language.

A stratified random sample was then used.

"A method of sampling that involves the division of a population into smaller groups known as strata. In stratified random sampling, the strata are formed based on members' shared attributes or characteristics. A random sample from each stratum is taken in a number proportional to the stratum's size when compared to the population. These subsets of the strata are then pooled to form a random sample."

I implemented stratified random sampling because it allowed me to establish that the sample was evenly balanced in the levels of study that were presented. Students in each year of study were divided into two strata (groups), that is, one stratum for males and the second for females. Random sampling was then used to select a sufficient number of elements from each stratum. "Sufficient" refers to a sample size large enough for us to be reasonably confident that the stratum represents the population.

A sample of 120 of students from 1st year up to BTECH was required. The population was divided by sample size, 30 students per level of study, 15 males and 15 males. Every 3th male and 3th female were randomly selected from each level of study, the distribution happen on the tertiary residence premises. Residences that accommodate one gender based on the year of study where first priorities because of easy distribution, the participants were randomly selected only 15 students per gender per year were given questionnaire to fill.

five paper Questionnaire including cover page that clearly explain the purpose of study as well as explaining that participation is completely voluntary and information provided will remain anonymous was given to each student. Students from 1st, 2nd and BTECH all completed their questionnaires in full, only two male students from 3rd year didn't return their questionnaires, a total of 118 students filled and returned their questionnaires. The study was conducted at the end of the first semester, when students were writing their final term papers, and had already gained some experience of studying in the new context.

3.3 Phases of research

The empirical research phases lasted for almost 9 months. The study was conducted in 3 consecutive phases, that is:

First Phase: Pilot study to measure feasibility of the study

Second Phase: Survey (research instrument)

Fourth Phase: Analysis of data

3.3.1 Pilot Study

Pilot study was taken in order to find the best method for data collection, Questionnaires was used to collect quantitative information. They provide a convenient way of gathering information from a target population. Pilot study showed that Questionnaires are easy to analyze and that most people are familiar with questionnaires.

"Written questionnaires reduce interviewer bias because there is uniform question presentation (Jahoda, et al., 1962). Unlike in-person interviewing, there are no verbal or visual clues to influence a respondent to answer in a particular way."(Walonick, 1993)

3.3.2 Questionnaires

Questionnaires where formulated and method of distribution was identified, the questionnaires given to the students comprised of thirty five questions, all questions where grouped into seven questions per variable. The first variable questions were about student's background, students were asked to provide their age, sex, year of study etc see appendix B.

Second variable questions where based on how frequent students use of SNS, how much time they spent on social networks per day and they were also asked to give some reasons for using SNS. This was done to determine whether SNS are used because they are convenient for communication and transfer of information or whether they are just used for entertainment and was seen as something to alleviate boredom. This would give us an idea on the motivation behind the use of SNS which could explain the frequent or lack of SNS use

Third variable questions further asked students to state their language skills, how proficient they are with their own home language. This will give us clear indication in terms of student's ability to read or write their home language as compared to what they write on SNS when communicating with friends using their home language.

Fourth variable focused more on culture, students were asked to state their awareness of other their own culture as well as other cultures and how often do they interact with people from other culture. This would give us an idea on student's perception towards culture whether they respect or they don't respect culture

Fifth and final variable questions asked students to give us clear indication as for how often do they used abbreviations as well as shortened wording, this will give us clear indication of language features that could be found on their SNS conversation. These features include spelling errors lack of punctuation, use of abbreviation, acronyms, emoticons, and use of rebus writing. Examples were clearly given for each of question to avoid misunderstanding or confusion.

3.4 Data Analysis

All the questionnaires from students were collected and answers were tailed in excel spread sheet using SPSS software for data analysis. They answers were grouped by sex and year of study. Graphs and tables were drawn in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the results.

3.5 Conclusion

In this chapter the methods and criteria for data analysis have been discussed, the advantages of sampling method and the way respondents were selected was also discussed. Finally, the phases of the research were presented one method of data collection was employed. The advantages of using questionnaires as a research tool were presented.