In 2014-15 the English Department is hosting two speakers on the theme of “Public Discourse” as part of the Marilyn K. Cory Speaker Series.

Why should we talk about Public Discourse?

The public use of language has drawn increasing attention as the means of disseminating information has expanded.

With the development of the Internet and spread of new forms of personal electronic communication, information and opinions can be addressed instantly to a worldwide audience by the average person, leading to concerns about how this is affecting language use and social norms for communication.

In this light, the speaker in the fall semester will be Susan C. Herring, Professor of Information Science and Linguistics, Indiana University, Bloomington.

She’ll speak on “E-grammar, or What Digital Communication is Doing to the English Language.”

Thursday, October 16 at 7 PM in RB 125.

Who is Susan Herring?

Dr. Herring was one of the first scholars to apply linguistic methods of analysis to computer-mediated communication (CMC), beginning with a focus on gender patterns in English-language discussion forums in the early 1990s.

Since then, she has continued to adapt and innovate methods to analyze the structural, pragmatic, interactional, and social aspects of digital discourse, including on Web 2.0 sites. Her work has been published in more than 130 articles and books, and she is Editor-in-Chief of the online journal Language@Internet.

Dr. Herring’s lecture will consider changes to English as a result of digital communication via the Internet, the Web, and mobile technologies. However, while for some observers the effects are positive, for many they are negative.

Consider these quotes

[Messages posted on the Internet are] “a whole new fractured language—definitely not as elegant or polished as English used to be, but in a way, much more vital.” (Wired Style)

“The English language is being beaten up, civilization is in danger of crumbling.” (The Oregonian)

Where does the reality lie?

In this talk she will present state-of-the-art evidence from linguistic research on computer-mediated communication (CMC) concerning the nature of ‘e-grammar’–the structural tendencies of digital language, including spelling, vocabulary, word formation, and sentence structure.

She distinguishes between errors and creativity and identifies usage that has become (partially) conventionalized in CMC.

She will also address these questions:

  • To what extent is e-grammar spreading beyond the Internet?
  • Does it contribute to illiteracy in school children?
  • Is it substantially changing the offline language documented in dictionaries and grammar books?

Dr. Herring argues that that many claims about the impact of e-grammar are overstated.

She will also present evidence for the existence of online subcultures whose members intentionally and rapidly generate linguistic innovations, and suggest that these communities contribute disproportionately to e-grammar and its spread offline.

Who was Marilyn K. Cory?

This speaker series was made possible by a very generous donation in honor of the late Marilyn K. Lowery Cory, an English Education graduate of Ball State University in 1967. She later received an accounting degree from Ball State as well, and worked as a Deputy Auditor for the Delaware County Auditor’s office in Muncie, followed by 20 years in California as an executive secretary, and then retirement in Oklahoma. She passed away in 2010.

The speaker in the Spring Semester will be Eliot Schrefer, a noted author of young adult literature. Further details on this lecture will be forthcoming.