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Orality and literacy, formality and informality in email communication

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Author(s): Carmen Pérez Sabater | Ed Turney | Begoña Montero Fleta

Journal: Ibérica
ISSN 1139-7241

Volume: 15;
Start page: 71;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: CMC | asynchronous communication | formality | informality | email style

ABSTRACT
Approaches to the linguistic characteristics of computer-mediated communication (CMC) have highlighted the frequent oral traits involved in electronic mail along with features of written language. But email is today a new communication exchange medium in social, professional and academic settings, frequently used as a substitute for the traditional formal letter. The oral characterizations and linguistic formality involved in this use of emails are still in need of research. This paper explores the formal and informal features in emails based on a corpus of messages exchanged by academic institutions, and studies the similarities and differences on the basis of their mode of communication (one-to-one or one-to-many) and the sender’s mother tongue (native or nonnative). The language samples collected were systematically analyzed for formality of greetings and farewells, use of contractions, politeness indicators and non-standard linguistic features. The findings provide new insights into traits of orality and formality in email communication and demonstrate the emergence of a new style in writing for even the most important, confidential and formal purposes which seems to be forming a new sub-genre of letter-writing.
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