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The advent of new information and communication

technologies (ICTs) has ushered in a new era of new media,

signalling unbounded possibilities for language and

communication studies. In actual fact, the ever increasing

mobility of the Internet the world over has opened yet other

dimensions to the study of language use in computer-mediated

environment. This has been attributed to the upsurge in the

world’s telecommunication market and its antecedent

penetration and adoption of the technology by the populace,

coupled with the improvement of the network with the third

generation (3G) mobile technology, which facilitates the

convergence of the technologies of the mobile phones and that

of the Internet. For instance, in 2006, Nigeria had an estimate

of about 8 million Internet users, many of whom relied on

equipment at cybercafés. In 2007, Internet hosts totaled 1,968.

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


In 2006 more than 32.3 million mobile cellular telephones and

1.7 million main lines were in use (International

Telecommunication Union 2007). However, in 2010 with an

estimated population of 150 million, there were 72.78 million

active GSM subscribers on all the major networks, with 6.69

million active CDMA subscribers. Within the estimated

population of the country, there were 10 million Internet users

(Miniwatts Marketing Group 2009). Of this estimation, 1.72

million Nigerians are said to be on the Facebook, with

penetration rate of 1.1%. Nigeria is thus among the leading

subscribers in Africa which has a total Facebook population of

17,607,440, with global penetration of 1.7% as at August 31,

2010 (Internet World Statistics).

These growing trends have provided opportunity to

study human interactions as they occur across the computermediated

environment. However, unlike before, when the study

of human-human interactions through the new media

technologies of the Internet and the cell phone restricted

scholarship to the investigation of language use in the immobile

technologies such as the world wide web, email, Yahoo/MSN’s

instant messengers (IM or IM’ing), Listserve and short message

service (texting) of the global system for mobiles (GSM). In

Nigeria, these features have significantly been studied against

theoretical frameworks of Conversation and Discourse Analysis

Sociology of English in Nigeria


(Herring 2004a, 2004b), Pragmatics (Odebunmi 2009),

Stylistics (Taiwo 2008) and Semiotics (Shoki and Oni 2008). It

is therefore very significant to explore the implication of the

mobility and ubiquity of the Internet on textual constructs and

(English) language use of Nigerian in their interactions over the

IM and the GSM-SMS platforms. This approach represents one

of the contemporary methods of investigating human language

textual constructs in computer-mediated communication.

The approach in this chapter is to observe and quantify

the lexical variations which afford mutual intelligibility and

meaning making of the textual constructs of sampled

interactions. Earlier studies in Nigeria IM and SMS studies

have focused on the forms and functions of textual messages

(Taiwo 2008), to the best of our knowledge, little or no

attention has been focused on differentiating IM and SMS

compositions with a view of understanding pattern of usage

especially as it concerns second language users of the English

language (Nigerians in this case). The central thesis is thus, to

understand the characteristics of textual constructs of Nigerians

as second language users of the English language, especially

the lexical/sentential differences afforded by the technologies

of transmission against their socio-linguistic backgrounds.

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


An Overview of CMC Studies in Nigeria

Scholarship into human-human interactions across digital

platform did not start in Nigeria until the commercialization of

the Internet and the GSM networks as earlier mentioned. This

notwithstanding, Nigerians resident within and in the diaspora,

have contributed immensely to the linguistic and

anthropological researches of computer-mediated

communication. Specifically, within the linguistic circle, giant

strides have been made. Ifukor (forthcoming) has grouped

Nigerian textual CMC activities and studies between 1990-

2010 into three broad categories viz.

(i) Web 1.0 communicative exchanges (e.g.

Bastian, 1999; Blommaert & Omoniyi, 2006;

Chiluwa, 2009, 2010a; Deuber & Hinrichs, 2007;

Moran, 2000; Ofulue, 2010; Olateju & Adeleke,

2010; Oluwole, 2009), (ii) mobile telephony and

text messaging (e.g. Awonusi, 2004, 2010;

Chiluwa, 2008; Ekong & Ekong, 2010; Elvis,

2009; Obadare, 2006; Ofulue, 2008; Taiwo,

2008a, 2008b) and (iii) social media and multiplatform

Web 2.0 discourse (e.g. Ifukor, 2008,

2009a, 2009b, 2010; Jonathan, 2010; Oni &

Osunbade, 2009; Taiwo, 2010a, 2010b) (cf. Ifukor

2011a, 2011b). In terms of technological platform

or mode in Murray’s, (1988) term, examples of

Nigerian CMC include mobile phone text

messaging (Awonusi, 2004, 2010; Chiluwa, 2008;

Ifukor, 2011a; Ofulue, 2008; Taiwo, 2008a,

2008b); Instant Messaging (Oni & Osunbade,

Sociology of English in Nigeria


2009); email (Blommaert & Omoniyi, 2006;

Chiluwa, 2009, 2010a, 2010b; Ofulue, 2010;

Olateju & Adeleke, 2010); listserv (Bastian,

1999); Usenet newsgroup (Moran, 2000); Internet

discussion forums (Deuber & Hinrichs, 2007;

Ifukor, 2011b; Taiwo, 2010a, 2010b); blog

(Ifukor, 2008, 2009a, 2009b, 2010); Twitter

(Ifukor, 2010, 2011c); Facebook (Ifukor, 2011d;

Jonathan, 2010), and surveys on CMC usage

(Ifukor, 2011a; Oluwole, 2009; Pyramid Research,

2010; Sesan, 2010).

It suffices to say that the year 2010 represents another landmark

in CMC scholarship in Nigerian due to the following four

reasons as pointed out in Ifukor (forthcoming),

First, Taiwo (2010c) published two edited

volumes of a handbook on digital behaviours

consisting of, among the collection, 16 papers

(single and co-authored) on various aspects of

text-based Nigerian CMC. Therefore, Taiwo''s

(2010c) handbook represents the single largest

collection on Nigerian CMC to date. Second, it is

the same year that published works on Nigerian

social networking media (Ifukor, 2010; Jonathan,

2010) emerged. For instance, Ifukor''s (2010)

paper on electoral activities by Nigerians in the

blogosphere and Twittersphere highlights the

relevance of blogging and social media to modern

Nigerian democratization. Thirdly, beginning

from his inaugural post on Facebook on June 28,

2010, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ)

experimented with what, for want of a better

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


terminology, can be called the first Nigerian

Facebook presidency. On October 1, 2010 CNN

named GEJ the Facebook President. This is a

remarkable endorsement of not just the person of

the Nigerian president, but also of how a global

product (Facebook) is being appropriated for

internal governance in Nigeria. Eventually, a book

based on GEJ''s interactions with Nigerian netizens

was published and titled My Friends and I:

Conversations on Policy and Governance via

Facebook (Jonathan, 2010). It is argued here that

the embrace of new media technologies by the

Nigerian government has ushered in a new era of

Nigerian politics, reflecting modern trends in

digitally-aided democratization. Finally, but not

the least, two national surveys on the digital habits

of connected Nigerians were released by Pyramid

Research (2010) and Sesan (2010) in the same


Examining the thrusts of contents of the Taiwo''s (2010c)

sixteen-chapter handbook in relation to Nigeria, 18.75% of the

papers (i.e. Chiluwa, 2010b; Ofulue, 2010; Olateju & Adeleke,

2010), examine aspects of Nigerian email communication for

identity construction, 419 or hoaxes, and code switching. 37.5

percent of the papers (i.e. Akande & Akinwale, 2010; Balogun,

2010; Odebunmi & Alo, 2010; Olaosun, 2010; Olubode-Sawe,

2010; Taiwo, 2010c) dwell on mobile telephony and SMS as

follows: with a view of stressing their positions on the

implications of the leprous compositions of the Nigerian

Sociology of English in Nigeria


students on written communication as well as contextual beliefs

in the 160-character discourse by Nigerian academics, an Ecosemiotic

examination of visual codes in mobile phone

directories, typography and orthographic conventions in

Yoruba NOKIA phone terminologies, and language mixing for

phaticity and invocations. The remaining papers (43.75%) are

concerned with pedagogical and systemic issues.

As rich as all the previous Nigerian CMC studies are,

none have focused on the differences in textual compositions of

Nigerian Internet users due to notable constraints and

affordances of the CMC, notably the mobility, synchronicity

and transmission capability of the technologies involve in IM

and SMS. This gap will hope to fill in this study.

A Brief Account of Lexico-semantic Studies in Nigeria


Lexico-semantics (lexical semantics) is an important theory of

linguistic description which has gained scholarly attention in

earlier works (cf Bamgbose, 1971; Bokamba, 1982; Adegbija,

1989; Osunbade and Adeniji, 2005). Alabi (2007), cited in

Osunbade and Adeniji (2005:46), lexical creativity, deviations

or interference have been noticed in these studies as accounting

for lexico-semantic innovations. The crux of lexico-semantics

(lexical semantics) is word description, that is, what words

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


mean. The three levels of linguistic description of text can be

the substance, form or the context of the text (Chiluwa, 2007)

explains further:

The graphic substance is studied as orthography or

graphology. A graphological or graphetic study

focuses on the written form of the text to examine

the significance of handwriting or typography to

the general meaning of text. The form of the text is

the grammatical or lexical patterns, or the

organization of the graphic and phonic substances

to produce meaningful language. Context or

semantic is the interaction of substance and form

with the situation – a place within a framework of

human social activity wider than the text

(Gregory, 1974). “Here language transforms itself

to become a meaningful part of our human social

behaviour (Oyeleye, 1997:90). Semantics is

viewed in terms of social meaning; hence, “lexicosemantic”

is taken for granted as the general

reference to grammatical and lexical statements

and what they signify.

By and large, lexico-semantics studies the meanings of

words; and the focus is on ‘content words’ rather than

‘grammatical words’ (Cruse, 2000:25). Some aspects of lexicosemantics

have a unifying theme of the idea that only the

meaning of words in terms of their association with other words

(syntagmatic relations) is stated, while some other aspects are

concerned with relation of ‘senses’ between words (see Palmer,

Sociology of English in Nigeria


1996). The overall theme is that the meanings of words can be


Various works that examined meanings of words in

African English have earmarked certain lexico-semantic

innovations such as semantic shift, semantic extension,

semantic transfer, and deliberate borrowing (cf. Kirk-Greene

1971, Sey 1973, Bokamba 1982, Adegbija, 1989; etc.). With

respect to Nigerian English (NE), Jowitt (1991:130-131)

identifies eight lexico-semantics features namely local coinages

that conform with Standard English (SE) morphological

principles, extended or restricted meanings of SE words,

foregrounded SE words additional to those featuring in 2,

foregrounded SE words which have become clichés, words

derived from pidgin, loan words, slang, and stylistic usage that

differs from SE usage. Showing a negative attitude towards

NE, he calls these features constituents/indexical markers of

popular Nigerian English (PNE). According to Jowitt (ibid:63),

PNE is an English which has, in its repertoire, lexical items that

have passed through a stage of use of an interlanguage during

which they are regarded as errors and stigmatized before

having some measures of acceptability, especially among the

educated people. Referring to them as ‘types of lexico-semantic

variations’, Odebunmi (2001:70-73) also identifies and

discusses five other features of the lexico-semantic variation in

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


NE: transfer, neologism, analogy, abbronyms, semantic shift

and extension.

Bamiro (1994) equally identifies ten categories of

lexico-semantic variation in NE: loan shift, semantic underdifferentiation,

lexico-semantic duplication and redundancy,

ellipsis, conversion, clipping, acronyms, translation equivalent,

analogical creation and coinages. Also, Osunbade (2005:64)

employs categories from the submissions of various scholars

and identifies six lexico-semantic features of Nigerian English,

which he adapts to his study of Kegites’ English. These

features are semantic extension, semantic shift, coinages,

lexical borrowing, alphabetism and narrowing of meaning.

This study, however, draws on earlier categorization of

text messaging (Shoki and Oni 2008) and Taiwo (2008) for its

data categories, while the unit of analysis are different lengths

of transactions representing interactions (for IM) and a-unit

message culled from the sampled text messages of the


Methodology and Corpus

In this study, we adopted content analysis for the quantification

of the manifest signs. The data for this study were natural oneto-

one instant messaging (IM) exchanges on Yahoo! Messenger

program™ retrieved from undergraduate students of three

Sociology of English in Nigeria


Nigerian universities who were taking courses in Use of

English and five manually written (as they were) recent text

messages i.e. SMS. Subjects were asked to record these in sheet

of papers provided for them. At the end of the writing session

the first 75 messages submitted were re-typed in word

processing for analyzing.

The three universities were University of Ibadan,

Ibadan, Nigeria and Ladoke Akintola University of

Technology, Ogbomoso, Nigeria and Osun State University

(the Ikire campus), Nigeria. These three institutions were

selected on the basis of convenience. The subsets (mostly fresh

students with science and humanities backgrounds) were

purposively selected for the study. The choice of student

population for the study is informed by research which reports

that students constitute more than 70 percent of the Net users in

Nigeria (Oni, 2002). These subjects were persuaded by the

researcher, who also happened to be their full and part-time

lecturer to forward, as an attachment, logs of their chat

conversations on Yahoo! IM program to the email account of

the researchers for language and media research purposes. The

choice of an attachment format as against the regular copypaste-

and-save method for the IM was to retain all the textual

features of the interactions which were vital to the analysis. The

retrieval rate was high, and in the first two weeks of the

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


announcement, over 150 logs of instant messages on diverse

topics and of various lengths, were downloaded. These were

exchanges between/among Nigerians. The log-files were

printed and the exchanges numbered to differentiate each

distinct line of discourse. For the ease of analysis (due to the

size and formulaic nature of the exchanges) 75 instant

messages, representing half of the exchanges retrieved in the

first two weeks of announcement, were purposively selected

and subsequently sampled for the task of the study. This data

gathering procedure facilitates anonymity of the subject and,

consequently, reliability of the data because most of them

construct pseudonymous identities for e-chat and their e-mail


Presentation and Discussion of Findings

For the first dimension, instances of abbronyms (after

Odebunmi, 1996) which include acronyms, abbreviations, and

other multifarious shortenings (such as alphabetism and alphanumeric

surrogates) were accounted for across the two sets of

data. These represent the linguistic signs. Subsequently,

percentage representations of both the non linguistic and

linguistic items were presented. The findings are presented in

table 1 and 2:

Sociology of English in Nigeria


Table 1 showing percentage distribution of IM and SMS

per transmission.

S/N CMC Features % Distribution per


IM’ing (N=75)

2715 words


(N=75) 10745

1 Abbronyms 52 (17%) 620 (74%)

2 Vocal Segregates

(emotext & vexts)

45 (14%) 14 (2%)

3 Ellipses (…) 40 (13%) 23 (3%)

4 Pidgin (as


26 (8%) 19 (2%)

5 Neologism (slang) 24 (8%) 13 (2%)

6 Contractions (e.g.


74 (24%) 117 (14%)

7 Emoticons 9 (3%) 2 (0%)

8 Code switching 16 (5%) 2 (0%)

9 Code mixing 26 (8%) 24 (3%)

252 834

In Table 1 above, texting has the predominance of CMC

with differential rate of 3.3. This is evident in the abundant

representation of abbronymization (abbreviations, acronyms

and various other multifarious lexical shortenings) 74%,

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


compared to that of IM’ing with 17%. Text messages averaged

8.2 words, while IM transmissions averaged 6.9. Recall that for

IM transmissions, sequencing of consecutive transmissions is

common. Therefore, while individual text messages were

longer than individual IMs, average length of a complete

conversational turn was longer in IM due to sequential nature

of the text (threading). Thus, the average number of characters

per transmission in the texting data was also significantly larger

than in IM’ing. Text messages averaged almost 65 characters,

while the IM mean was just under 39 characters. Another factor

contributing to message length is one-word transmissions.

There were significantly fewer one-word text messages (5 out

of 75, or 6.6%) than one-word IMs (45 out of 75, or 60%).

Almost 95% of texting transmissions contained multiple

sentences, compared with 25% of the IM transmissions. The

average number of sentences per text-message was 1.2, while

that of IM was 2.7. Since IMs are commonly sent as

consecutive transmissions without added cost, this finding is

not surprising.

Due to the socio-linguistic backgrounds of the

interlocutors, Pidgin, slang code-switching and code-mixing

form part of the textual constructs of the Nigerian net users.

Their representation in the corpus further shows the informal

Sociology of English in Nigeria


context of the CMC written communication and uniqueness of

language use by Nigerians in these media.

Table 2 showing results of quantitative analysis of signs


Emoticons, Emotexts & Vowel

Extension (vexts)

Abbronyms (Acronyms, Abbreviations

& Other Multifarious Shortening of


Freq. of


Av. Freq. of

Occurrence per


Freq. of


Av. Freq. of

Occurrence per


207 2.7 7.2 9.7 Instant


97 1.2 1044 13.9 Text


From table 2 above, we found that abbronyms had the highest

number of occurrence featuring at the average rate of 9.72 per

message for IM’ing and 13.9 for texting. Of the total number of

messages sampled (N=75) texting occurred 1044 times almost

doubling average frequency of occurrence in IM’ing with 729

times. Emoticons and vocal segregates (emotexts and vowel

extension) – all representing the non linguistic vocal

segregates, on the other hand, occurred at the average rate of

2.76 per message for IM’ing and 1.2 for texting. There is less

representation of emoticons and vocal segregates in texting

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


4.4% per message transmission, with average frequency of

occurrence at 1.2. The frequency of occurrence for the non

linguistic signs was 207 times. This means that the total

average frequency of occurrence for all the IM textual signs is

12.48. Based on these findings, we can infer that computermediated

communication of instant messaging has its

peculiarities in the textual signs such as emoticons, emotexts,

vowel/letter extension and abbronyms, even in an ESL country

like Nigeria. Nigerian students thus construct and interpret

messages with the shared assumption of these CMC lexemes.

One can also conclude that a IM constructed by an average

Nigerian student would reflect predominance of lexical signs

(abbronyms) over visual signs (emoticons) and much less of

these occurrences for text messaging over the mobile phones.

Some of the instances of the linguistic and non linguistic signs

are presented, as extracts, as follows:

bjrealme: hw sister?

bjrealme: na you i should ask

bjrealme: una no c each order?

westsideoutlawzus2p: stop posting me joo

5 westsideoutlawzus2p: na me suppose ask u dat

bjrealme: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

bjrealme: 8-x

bjrealme: you funny ohhh

bjrealme: no be ur babe

10 bjrealme: you go dey contact each orda now

westsideoutlawzus2p: wel no b say i no dey

here 4rm her but jst 2 ask abt her welfare

bjrealme: she should be in good condition

Sociology of English in Nigeria


westsideoutlawzus2p: aw abt ur admision

15 bjrealme: you don finish exams''

westsideoutlawzus2p: yes

bjrealme: we just go do post jamb


The same goes for extracts 2 (Exchanges 15). Move 7

Exchange 15 shows an instance of emoticon, moves 14, 19, and

20 show instances of abbronyms peculiar to Instant Messages

which interactants may have shared assuption of.

It suffices to say here that findings from the sampled

text corroborate results of earlier studies on some systems of

CMC, especially the email and newsgroup. It has been found

that email and e-chat have a peculiar linguistic structure

stemming from the use of multifarious word formation

processes, emoticons and abbronyms being part of this. These

signs make CMC text in Instant Messaging program to appear

more like speech than writing communication (cf. Hunnicut

and Magnuson, 2001; Sjoberg, 2001; McElhearn, 2000) and

much different from that of the text messaging. Let us consider

an extract of the sampled text messages:

Watz goan, be reminded that our

general meeting holds Tue 17/7. Also

our society harvest is same day at 9am

mass. Pls come wt gifts O! NO

SHAKING!Enjoy ya weekend

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.


Contractions (operationalized here as the use of

apostrophe and excludes the possessive case) which typically

appear in informal speech and writing are examined. The

reason for the analysis stems from the fact that this category of

contraction is shorter to type than the full forms, especially

when omitting the apostrophe. In computer-based IM,

apostrophes require only a single keystroke, while needing four

key taps on mobile phones. We calculated percent of full and

contracted forms against total potential contractions. For

apostrophes, we scored only use in contractions, not

possessives. In texting, 14% of all potential contractions were

contracted. In IM, only 24% were contracted. Mispells were not

accounted for in our quantification and these were much. Being

fresher students, it is assumed that the subjects are still battling

with the mechanics of the English language.

In the dimension for the analysis of punctuation,

punctuation at the ends of transmissions and the ends of

sentences was examined. We also tallied use of question marks

at the ends of semantically-interrogative sentences in

comparison with use of periods, exclamation marks, or

equivalent punctuation (ellipses, dashes, commas, and

emoticons) at the ends of declaratives, imperatives, or

exclamations. Texting and IM followed similar patterns, with

the proportion of texting punctuation always lower than in IM.

Sociology of English in Nigeria


Total sentence-final punctuation was 39% for texting and 45%

for IM. Transmission-final punctuation appeared in only 29%

of text messages and 35% of IMs. However, for transmissions

containing multiple sentences, the sentences not appearing at

the ends of transmissions had more sentence-final punctuation:

54% of text messages and 78% of IMs, Logically,

transmission-medial punctuation is more critical than

transmission-final marks in helping recipients interpret

messages. In most cases, the act of sending a message coincides

with sentence-final punctuation.

To compare question marks and periods (or equivalent

marks), we divided each corpus into two categories: semantic

questions and “other”. More question marks were used to end

semantic questions than periods (or equivalents) to end other

sentence types. In texting, 23% semantic questions were ended

with a question mark, while only 10% of “other” bore sentencefinal

punctuation. In IM, all (52%) of questions ended in

question marks, while only 41% of the remaining sentences

were punctuated. More frequent use of “required” question

marks may pragmatically highlight the request for a response

from the recipient.

Akande, A. & Odebunmi, A.



Analyses of texting and IM’ing against the socio-linguistic

backgrounds of second language user (English) much enabled

as a result of the mobility of the Internet in today’s media

landscape have shown peculiarities in the textual constructs of

Nigerian students. The paucity of emoticons and heavy use of

abbronymizations in both texting and IM corpora is not in

consonant with studies of this nature in North America (Ling

and Baron 2007) and the UK (Thurlow and Brown 2003).

However, sameness in the previous reports on sentential

punctuation in texting or IM’ing, shows the degree to which

affordances and constraints of the CMC media affect uniformly

English language constructs and meaning making in online

platforms. Findings have shown that usage patterns are hardly

contrastive. Ling and Baron (2007) notes that students often

omitted transmission-final marks (especially periods), but their

overall punctuation choices tended to be communicatively

pragmatic. The fact punctuation was consistently more

prevalent in IM than in texting probably reflects greater ease of

input in IM. It is however worthy of note that student approach

textual composition with differences in their competence level.

More so, text messages were consistently longer and contained

more sentences, probably resulting from both differential

costing structures and the tendency of IM sequences (but not

Sociology of English in Nigeria


texts) to be sent in series one after the end to form threads and

turn sequences. Text messages contained significantly more

abbreviations than IMs, but even the number in texting was


Texting and IM’ing data, therefore, are in tangential

with respect to contractions and apostrophes: more contractions

appeared in texting, but texting used only one-third the

apostrophes found in IM. Greater use of contractions in texting

could reflect the higher tendency to use abbreviated forms to

save cost (compared with IM’ing), which in turn is in

consonance with an awkward input device of the mobile phone,

even with qwert-keyboarded phones. The same applies to

apostrophes in texting.


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A Research proposal for a lexico-semantic analysis of computer-mediated discourse in selected instant and text messages of nigerian students :
Reviews: A Review on a lexico-semantic analysis of computer-mediated discourse in selected instant and text messages of nigerian students , lexicosemantic, analysis, computermediated project topics, researchcub.info, project topic, list of project topics, research project topics, journals, books, Academic writer.
The advent of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) has ushered in a new era of new media, signalling unbounded possibilities for language and communication studies. In actual fact, the ever increasing mobility of the Internet the world over has opened yet other dimensions to the study of language use in computer-mediated environment... english education project topics


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