Prof. Najaat Busabaa, professor of linguistics at the faculty of languages and translation, delivered a webinar titled "Netspeak Linguistic Features Used by Youth" at an event organized by the scientific research committee on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.
Prof. Busabaa started her presentation by emphasizing the indisputable fact of the widespread use of internet among the youth. They use it because "it is quicker, cheaper, and more convenient than other communicative methods, "she illustrated. She added that the rapid development of this new technology and communicative method has become of great importance in modern people's lives. This development is parallel to the expansion of the internet culture mainly mediated through the English language, and consequently, it has a profound influence on languages, spoken or written.
Netspeak is "a type of language displaying features that are unique to the internet." Prof. Busabaa noted that this phenomenon in Arabic is prolific; however, it has been rarely investigated among the youth. When chatting, as was assumed by linguists, they have two alternative choices; either they will use English with Latin letters and compensate for the lack of some correspondence letters in English by using numbers that look like those letters or, they will Arabize those letters with English Netspeak abbreviations putting them in Arabic scripts.
She also referred to Arabizi as a norm used in Netspeak chatting rooms. According to many scholars, Arabizi is "a blended language composed of English and vernacular Arabic, written in Latin letters but using arithmographemes; numerals as letters."
Prof. Busabaa, moreover, identified the methods and procedures of the study. She stated that in order to investigate the frequency of linguistic features used by Yemeni students in Netspeak, a qualitative method was used, limiting these features then describing and explaining them linguistically. She also reviewed the literature and then reached the findings of the study. The study indicated that there is a common balance in the chatting roles; the participants are brief and focus on the direct content of their responses. Moreover, sentences that are used are short and simple, which gives an impression of brevity to listeners. In addition, communication topics mainly include news about school or university issues such as timetables, lectures, and exams. Also, jokes, parental relations, love poetry, wise sayings, remarks on death, or congratulations have been noticed. Furthermore, commenting on others' lexical mistakes is rare. They paid no attention to correct each other. The researcher has found only one comment as feedback to correct the mistake of the other chatter. The linguistics categories involve showing exaggeration by repeating some letters to draw attention, dictation marks: "spelling, glottal stop, al-taa, al marboodah, the use of punctuation marks, question marks, exclamations, colon, semi-colon, and al-Tashkeel."
Prof Busabaa explained that extracts from the Holy Quran require special attention from the users because these are sacred texts. She reached the conclusion that vernacular language replaces standard Arabic in chat rooms, which is entirely different from the findings of the other earlier works where English replaces other languages. Consequently, she proposed some recommendations to follow. These include initiating a number of organized campaigns, either electronic or in the fields among Yemeni youth of the importance of their language to establish and strengthen their identities. Also, teachers should be strict in correcting students' linguistic mistakes and establishing web pages that provide the youth with the principles of their language in attractive ways to draw their attention and involve them in defending their own language.
The webinar was very informative, and it witnessed significant interaction from both faculty members and MA students who showed their interest in the study and its findings.