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1.1 Background of the Study
The current computer literacy level in the society has made text-based communication, which comes in various forms; assume a vital position among many people. These text-based communication techniques include chat on-line, text messaging, e-mail, among others. This form of communication (text-based communication) comes with its peculiar style of writing, creating and re-creating new ways of writing. This paper is an attempt in analysing the various word formation processes employed by Nigerians using the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) in text messaging.
GSM, which is an abbreviation for Global System for Mobile Communication, is a communication system that does not use wires and cables. It rather uses radio waves according to Homby (2001), and as such, it can be carried about and be used anywhere. Though GSM can be used for many purposes, it is majorly used for call making and text-messaging. However, this paper focuses on text massages.
Temple (2013) observes that technical ideas (with respect to GSM) from various numbers of sources are gathered over the period from 1982-1985. According to him, Europe produced the very first GSM Technical Specification in 1987, which marks the birth or the pivotal year of GSM. However, GSM was introduced in Nigeria in 2001following the January 2001 auction for GSM which attracted mobile phone operators like MTN Nigeria, Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel), MTEL, Globacom and Etisalat to operate digital mobile service in the country.
Econet Wireless Nigeria and MTN Nigeria launched their GSM on 7th and 8th of August 2001 respectively. Obviously, GSM subscription rate and phone calls were extremely expensive at inception. However, with the advent of days, they have become relatively affordable that an average household in the country can afford to own as many GSM phones as the number of persons in the household. This makes it possible for young people (even children) to have access to GSM. Consequently, from observation there are innovative ways/styles of writing that accompany the use of GSM to compose text messages, especially by the younger generation in order to reflect local colouration and to, save time, space and cost. In this paper, we look at these innovative styles to find out the word-formation processes employed by Nigerian users of this information technology gadget in their text messages. Short Message Service (SMS) is a text messaging service component of web, phone or mobile communication systems that makes use of standardised communication protocol which makes it possible for fixed lines or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages. SMS sends and receives messages of up to 160 characters per page to and from GSM handsets. In other words, there is a limited number of characters that can be sent or received through SMS. This may explain the need to create and re-create new words. This study is inspired by this new form of writing and the styles with which it comes.
Language is in constant change with new words coming into it almost on a daily basis. Though not every new word survives, some eventually find their ways into the vocabulary of the language. Word formation is simply the creation of new words in a language. Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2011) observe that new words have quite a number of ways by which they can enter the language. Scholars like Fromkin, Rodman and Hyams (2011); Aronoff an Fudeman (2008); Gries (2006); Peña (2010), among others, have identified these various processes of word formation to include:
compounding, derivation, coinage, acronym, blending, clipping, back-formation, etc. However, the focus of this paper is on how Nigerian mobile phone users employ these and other processes in forming new words as are evident in their test messages.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Prior to the technology age, language use in bilingual communities was restricted to the context of speech. Over the years language use extended to writing and in recent times, especially from the mid-1990s; we have the computer mediated styles of communication. This medium introduced among other styles, the use of the short massage system of communications. The predominance of SMS style usage of university students and youths triggered the curiosity of the researcher to investigate the concepts of language, style and communication, English language in Nigeria and its attendant problems, and the ‘SMS’ styles of communication as used in Nigeria Short Message Service.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The singular goal of this study is to explore the various processes employed by Nigerian Short-Message Service (SMS) writers in generating new words, by critically sampling and analyzing some of these new words to see the processes employed by these GSM users.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Over the years, the short message service ‘SMS’ has been a miniature and abridged style of transmitting written information. This style became prominent in Nigeria during the introduction and advent of the mobile phones (handsets/GSM). It becomes pertinent for this practice to be reviewed and documented.
1.5 Research Questions
The study seeks to provide answers to the following questions
a. What are the various word formation processes that can be identified in Nigerian SMS?
b. What are the various word formations deduced from the sound of a word?
1.6 Organization of the Study
For clarity of purpose, this study is divided into five sections, with the first and the second sections bordering on introduction and views of various authors on the topic respectively. In the third section, the methodology adopted in the paper is discussed, while the various word-formation processes, alongside the resulting new words as identified in SMS, are provided and discussed in the fourth section. Finally, the fifth and sixth sections respectively summarise and conclude the study.
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