Computer-mediated Greeklish : key linguistic and sociocultural issues
Despite the emergence of a multitude of linguistic phenomena with the spread of
computer-mediated communication (CMC), research interest has mostly related to
English rather than to languages from other national cohorts, such as Greece, a society
known for its distinct attachment to language and its symbolic values, and which has
recently experienced the spread of CMC. Hence, this study has sought to investigate the
linguistic and sociocultural implications of `Greeklish', an untapped area of scholarly
research, which denotes the use of the Roman alphabet to transliterate Greek in CMC,
hopefully helping to illuminate similar situations outside this context.
On the basis of an initial exploratory e-mail survey, Greeklish emerged as a complex
phenomenon which pertains mainly to issues such as: its linguistic nature in relation to
Greek, the stances towards its use and its transliteration system. The use of the electronic
questionnaire proved suitable for this stage but not sufficient to address all the questions
brought to the fore.
Consequently, a detailed analysis of the linguistic make-up of authentic Greek and
Greeklish e-mails in two respective corpora followed, which analysed the distribution of
foreign language material, elements of informal register, register markers and the
different transliteration patterns. Despite the lack of a very coherent pattern, the use of
Greeklish appeared to be more conducive to the activation of devices of simplification,
informality and tolerance to linguistic deviance. The analysis of transliteration practices
verified previously recognised tendencies towards the 'phonetic' and the `orthographic'
Finally, a more contextualised approach was employed, where 29 Greek e-mail users
participated in face-to-face interviews and an online sentence verification experiment.
The interviews uncovered Greeklish as a case of `marginal digraphia', a culture-specific
code with a functional specification towards informality, defying standardisation and
allowing structural and spelling creativity. As for the online experiment, it adduced
some initial evidence about the significance of the `visual/orthographic route' in reading
of Greek, while, when combining the results from the interview reports and the
experimental findings, there appeared an incipient profile of the `orthographic Greeklish
user', i. e. the prolific e-mail writer who transliterates Greeklish orthographically and
addressesth e phenomenona s linguistically and culturally challenging.