Digital communication has become indispensable in today's world and is used by a large part of the population on a daily basis. The focus is primarily on the WhatsApp communication platform. As early as April 2012, it was one of the top-selling apps in almost 100 countries, and this trend is continuing (cf. Meili 2016: 1). As a result, WhatsApp largely replaced SMS communication, which had previously been the most widely used method, in 2013 and accompanies many people in their everyday lives. Information is usually transmitted in the chats, spontaneous appointments are made, virtual “small talk” is carried out or it is simply used to banish boredom and for entertainment.
However, this also leads to a change in communication behavior and to specific linguistic features in digital writing, such as the use of short words and abbreviations, which can be linguistically examined. As early as 1952, even before abbreviations were used in digital communication, Bergstrom-Nielsen introduced a definition for the term “short word”, which is adopted by almost all authors to this day:
“We call abbreviations 'short word' when the pronunciation follows the spelling. The difference between an abbreviation and an abbreviation lies in the pronunciation: an abbreviation is pronounced like the full expression from which it arose [...]; an abbreviation is read as it is written [...].” (Bergstrem-Nielsen 1952: 2, cited in Balnat 2011: 15)
In this thesis, the question is examined as to which special forms of short words and abbreviations can be found in WhatsApp messages and what function they fulfill. For this purpose, the features of digital communication via the messenger service WhatsApp are described in more detail in Chapter 2. The current state of research regarding the use of the communication platform and the special features of digital communication via WhatsApp are discussed. For this purpose, the communication model by Koch and Oesterreicher for describing conceptual orality in digital communications is explained in more detail.
Chapter 3 then goes into some specific characteristics that can be found in everyday written communication via WhatsApp. The investigation is limited to stylistic features of digital writing, more precisely to shorthand and abbreviations on the word and sentence level. For this purpose, the abbreviations are subdivided again into the categories of • syntactical
- lexical and
- pragmatic level.
For illustration, data from the data set collected in the seminar is used as an example.
Finally, Chapter 4 summarizes the functions of the different types of abbreviations and shorthands in WhatsApp messages in digital writing.
The name WhatsApp derives from the English language game “What's up?” (“Well, how are you?”). The app is primarily intended for the fast and free exchange of everyday news. It is very popular due to its intuitive operation and the absence of advertising on the program. Dürenscheid also mentions the imitation effect as another success factor: “The more people use a specific form of communication, the more attractive it becomes.” (Dürscheid/Frick 2014: 162). A survey conducted by the JIM study (JIM = Youth, Information, Multimedia) in 2015 shows the importance of digital communication for young people. It shows that 94% of young people use a messenger service daily or several times a week again, 92% of the girls and 80% of the boys primarily use the WhatsApp application (cf.
WhatsApp is therefore one of the most widely used forms of digital communication. The app is not only described by Dürscheid and Frick as a 'form of communication' or 'communication medium', but rather classified as a 'communication platform' (cf. Dürscheid/Frick 2016: 60). They use this description mainly because WhatsApp combines many different forms and options of communication.
Frick has a very apt definition of this:
"WhatsApp [...] is a cross-platform messaging service that is installed on the mobile phone in the form of an application and that allows messages, images, audio and video files and location information to be sent free of charge and has recently even been equipped with a telephone function." (Frick 2015: 226)
Another function is the formation of group chats with which up to 256 people can now chat at the same time. With WhatsApp, there is not only the possibility of a one-to-one constellation, but large chat groups can arise that communicate with each other in real time. This creates a new form of communication between many people, even over long distances and different time zones (cf. Dürscheid/Frick 2014: 173).
Another contrast to the classic chat via SMS is the length of the message. While an SMS is limited to 160 characters and is always sent as a separate message, WhatsApp has no character limit and the chat is always visible as a dialogical exchange (cf. Dürscheid/Frick 2014: 164 f.). However, this does not directly result in WhatsApp messages becoming longer. They usually consist of an average of 5 words per message. On the contrary, the co-presence of the communication partners and the open communication channel enables a fast back and forth of the messages and thus a quasi-synchronous chat. The high degree of interactivity is reflected in short texts and can sometimes also lead to overlaps in communication (cf. Dürscheid/Frick 2014: 170).
These short texts, which are usually typed very quickly, lead to another feature of WhatsApp communication, the saving spelling. Despite the infinite and free range of characters, many (character) savings can be found in digital writing. Due to the relatively fast communication speed in the chat, the messages are usually written very quickly and with little care. This leads to a high number of typos and careless mistakes. Many deviations from the norm can also be observed in punctuation and capitalization (cf. Dürscheid/Frick 2014: 171). Above all, however, short words and abbreviations are frequently used, both for individual words and in the entire sentence.
With the use of WhatsApp for the purpose of everyday communication, the writing has also changed. The messages that are exchanged via chats must above all be fast, economical and interactive. The communication partners constantly switch between the different roles of receiver and sender. In this respect, the typed dialogues behave similarly to oral conversations in everyday life. It is therefore not surprising that special linguistic strategies are used in interaction-oriented writing via WhatsApp (cf. Beißwenger 2015: 6 ff.).
This also includes the feature of conceptual orality, in which the written use of language in the chat is based on informal, oral conversations. Researchers often speak of a "hybridity" in chat communication, since on the one hand it has characteristics of a synchronous form of communication such as in spoken language, but on the other hand it is realized in written form via asynchronous or quasi-synchronous media (cf. Balnat 2011: 210f). For this reason, the proximity-distance continuum of Koch/Oesterreicher from 1985 is often used in media-linguistic publications in order to be able to better classify and differentiate the “verbalized writtenness” in chats.
Illustration not included in this extract
Fig.: Proximity-distance continuum (Dürscheid 2016: 362): a = family conversation, b = telephone conversation, c = private letter, d = job interview, e = newspaper interview, f = sermon, g = scientific lecture, h = editorial, i = legal text.
The approach of Koch/Oesterreicher is usually described in the secondary literature as a 'model', which according to Dürscheid is probably due to the graphic illustrating the proximity-distance continuum (cf. Dürscheid 2016: 359). However, it is not the name that is important, but rather the benefit of the model. The communication situations can be classified between the two poles of “conceptual writing” (“language of distance”) and “conceptual orality” (“language of proximity”) using certain parameters. The model is not intended to provide the exact classification of every conceivable form of expression, but rather to offer a possibility of explaining how different forms of expression behave in comparison to one another. For example, if a communication situation has many features on the distance pole side, the selected language strategy is more conceptual in writing. If, on the other hand, the communication situation has more characteristics on the side of the proximity pole, the language strategy is more conceptually shaped orally. Chat communication via WhatsApp can be assigned to the pole of conceptual orality based on certain parameters such as the temporal proximity, the familiarity and privacy between the chat partners, the dialogical structure and the reference to situational framework conditions. In the model presented above, it would therefore be at c = private letter (cf. Beißwenger 2015: 27f.).
Koch/Oesterreicher themselves also comment on the location of the new forms of communication such as chat in their model. In a post from 2007 they write about the chat:
“The chat is even one of the most beautiful examples of how a relative, of course always limited approach to dialogical, spontaneous proximity language is possible in the graphic medium. As far as the innovative, purely graphic processes are concerned, i.e. abbreviations and emoticons such as hdl or:-), these are conceptually relevant at best in terms of the writing speed that promotes spontaneity.” (Koch/Oesterreicher 2007: 390, quoted from Dürscheid 2016: 380)
As Koch/Oesterreicher put it themselves, abbreviations and short forms in chat contribute to communicative closeness and thus to conceptual orality.
The classification in the model makes it easier to classify linguistic abnormalities in private WhatsApp communications, since in a chat it is not the norms of writing that are in the foreground, but more the norms of informal, spoken language. Orientation towards spoken colloquial language, the use of abbreviations, abbreviations and the phenomenon of writing fast can be described as an adaptation to the proximity pole in written communication (cf. Beißwenger 2016: 36 f.).
Abbreviations and abbreviations have not only existed since the beginning of digital communication. As early as the 16th century in ancient Rome, reduced forms were used in, for example, Pompeian wall inscriptions, for example for personal names, days of the week or entire sentences. Later, abbreviations were found in letters or on postcards from the 18th and 19th centuries, such as in farewell formulas, Warm regards/D[ein] D[ich] l[iebender] C... (cf. Siever 2014: 207). In later radio traffic around 1912, the so-called Q code was introduced to speed up communication. So it can be stated:
"Situational communication conditions, including technical specifications, have always had an effect on language, more precisely: the language was adapted to these and context information was included [...]." (Siever 2014: 208)
Abbreviations and short words in WhatsApp messages are analyzed below. Chapter 2.1 describes in detail how the orientation towards everyday colloquial language in WhatsApp chats can be explained and classified in contrast to other forms of communication. In this section, the specific forms of abbreviations and acronyms are discussed in more detail. For this purpose, exemplary WhatsApp chats from the data collection of the seminar are presented and the different forms are illustrated on the basis of them.