The Linguistics of LOL: What Internet vernacular reveals about the evolution of language
When two friends created the site I Can Has Cheezburger?, in 2007, to share cat photos with funny, misspelled captions, it was a way of cheering themselves up. They probably weren’t thinking about long-term sociolinguistic implications. But seven years later, the “cheezpeep” community is still active online, chattering away in lolspeak, its own distinctive variety of English. lolspeak was meant to sound like the twisted language inside a cat’s brain, and has ended up resembling a down-South baby talk with some very strange characteristics, including deliberate misspellings (teh, ennyfing), unique verb forms (gotted, can haz), and word reduplication (fastfastfast). It can be difficult to master. One user writes that it used to take at least 10 minutes “to read adn unnerstand” a paragraph. (“Nao, it’z almost like a sekund lanjuaje.”) To a linguist, all of this sounds a lot like a sociolect: a language variety that’s spoken within a social group, like Valley Girl–influenced ValTalk or African American Vernacular English. (The word dialect, by contrast, commonly refers to a variety spoken by a geographic group—think Appalachian or Lumbee.) Over the past 20 years, online sociolects have been springing up around the world, from Jejenese in the Philippines to Ali G Language, a British lingo inspired by the Sacha Baron Cohen character. There’s also Padonkaffsky, an aughts-era slang beloved by Russia’s self-described “scum” (they call themselves Padonki—a garbling of podonok, the actual Russian word for “scum”), with phonetic spellings, offensive language, and a popular meme involving outdoor sex and an inopportune bear. Israel has Fakatsa, a sociolect beloved by teen girls—terms from which have popped up on baby clothes and menstrual-pain products. (via The Linguistics of LOL - Britt Peterson - The Atlantic)
I’ve overheard UCLA professors complaining that some of their student’s writings included either this mess of language or texting-style shorthand.