Dynamism of punctuation norm in internet communication: functioning of period

Moscow State Linguistic University
Issue 50

The article discusses qualitative changes in modern English punctuation norm exemplified by one of the traditional punctuation marks, the period, the latter gradually becoming arbitrary at the end of an electronic message. While interest to English punctuation is hardly characteristic of Russian linguistics, development of virtual communication has turned punctuation into a topical field of research, where functional-and-cognitive methodology is effectively applied. Analysis of functional properties of the period has shown that in internet-specific ‘oral written speech’ it is no longer popular for meaning segmentation, but it is rather used rhetorically, mainly to terminate communicative exchange. In online dialogue, where meaningful social and pragmatic clues relevant for grasping the partner’s intentions are missing, the period grows primarily associated with conveying negative emotions, which results in absence of statistically significant frequency. Other possible reasons for the absence of sentence final punctuation are also given a critical overview. A possibility of punctuation synonymy is suggested; it springs from language users punctuating alternatively, often via information technologies. Thus, today’s internet communication clearly signals dynamism of punctuation norm, which is part of the more general tendency towards a more democratic way of punctuating written utterances. Adding to the perspectives for the period is the ‘packaging’ potential of punctuation marks and their novel functionality as part of ‘digital body language’; both contribute to appropriateness that a language sign must have in use. This intricate combination will eventually determine the development of the punctuation rule that is to be used to complete an utterance.

For citation

Salkova, M. A. (2023).  Dynamism of punctuation norm in internet communication: functioning of period. Issues of Applied Linguistics, 50, 74-107. https://doi.org/10.25076/vpl.50.04

This artiсle is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.