Conversational Analysis of Chatroom Talk

Conversational Analysis of Chatroom Talk

Neuage, Terrell


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Beginning with an understanding of the following linguistic theories: Semiotic Analysis, Speech Act Theory (SA), Discourse Analysis (DA), Conversational Analysis (CA); several schools of text analysis theory, including Reading-response Theory, and techniques of technology analysis, especially Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC), this thesis discusses how conversation in the text-based chatroom milieu differs from every day “casual” conversation in a number of respects. It demonstrates how, despite the differences in “chat” conducted on-line from that carried out face-to-face, on-line chat and “natural conversation” share some features, and that analytical theories developed for inquiry into conventional speech and print-based text reception, can be used for examining on-line chat. This is a study of how the process of exchanging meaning is functionally motivated within electronic “talk”. My first endeavour has been to create a semiotic model for “Natural Language” within the chatroom milieu. I have established protocols to “capture” chatroom “talk” for analysis. Beyond this, my research shows that not only is “conversation” a misnomer in this context, but also that dialogue in this electronic milieu is different, not only because of the current absence of sight and sound cues, but also as a result of various features caused by rapidly changing technologies. I propose that chatroom “texted-talk” is in fact a new communicative genre with, on the one hand, characteristics in common with casual conversation, writing and other forms of electronic communication, but on the other hand, new and unique features that demand separate classification. Chatroom conversation is becoming a phenomenon which warrants historical study. It is also however showing signs, because of rapidly changing and evolving technologies, of being a short-lived genre. Replication of this thesis and my research is already difficult, due to the changing technologies of delivery on the Internet – another matter that I explore further in this thesis. This makes such a study timely, both in its contribution to developing ways of understanding and maybe even developing later technological applications for on-line “chat”, and for its capacity to capture and preserve an influential moment of our communication history.


Neuage, Terrell:
I am a duel citizen of Australia and The United States. In the 1990s and early 2000s I attended university for a PhD at the University of South Australia and Masters of Arts and BA in Journalism through Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. My interest in communication, especially on-line communication sparked my research in internet communication especially of chatrooms of the 1990s. In the seven years I worked on chatrooms they were replaced by other communications, making this an historic reportage of early internet-talk. I have taught communication and technology at the University of South Australia as well as at the State University of New York at Albany and at Russel Sage College, Troy, New York. I have taught technology courses also in China and in secondary schools in New York and Australia. I currently live in South Australia.