“A Funky Language for Teenzz to Use”
Representing Gulf Arabic in Instant Messaging
This chapter examines how the Roman alphabet and other ASCII symbols such as numerals are used to represent colloquial Gulf Arabic dialect in instant messaging in the United Arab Emirates. This use of ASCII symbols to represent a language normally written in its own standardized alphabet illustrates how language systems and technological systems interact with social meanings and user identities. The study reported here investigated how young educated UAE females use ASCII symbols to represent Arabic sounds; how consistent these representations are; what influences shape the choice of spellings; and what purposes this kind of writing serves for those who use it. ASCII symbol use was found to be moderately consistent and influenced not only by hardware/software considerations, but also by the social connotations of English, Standard Arabic, and local dialect among the users.
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