Course Title: LNG 3430: Internet Linguistics 3 hours, 3 credits.

Course Description: Formal properties of language on the internet; communicative purposes and effects; stylistic diversity. Standards of communication across mediums, and implications for language acquisition. Methods of digital data collection and analysis. Connection between digitally mediated communication and literacy.

Location:              TBA

Meeting Day:       Tuesday

Time:                     9:30-12:10

Instructor:             Michelle A. Johnson

Email:                    mjohnson2@gc.cuny.edu


Office Hours:        Tuesdays 12:10-2:00 in the computer lab in Carman Hall.

Textbook:             Readings, audio recordings and infographics will come from a variety of sources and will be linked to the website and freely available. We will have select readings from the following two books. Readings from these will not have links on the website.

Website: https://internetlinguisticslehman.commons.gc.cuny.edu

Course materials are available on this website. I will not be using blackboard.

Blog: http://internetlinguisticslehman.blogspot.com/

Course Description

What effect do digital technologies have on the language we use?

This course will introduce students to the study of language on digital platforms. Digital technologies have changed how we interact with the world and with each other. The level of connectivity we have in our everyday lives is unprecedented and raises questions about how this connectivity impacts language use and communication. Each week, the course will look at different topics and perspectives on this cultural shift. The first third of the course will establish a framework for the course – defining what is meant by digital and Web 2.0, we will then examine the perspectives researchers have taken to analyze language on the internet.  The second third will survey platforms and mediums available for study. The final third will take an in-depth look at research of language on the internet. This course will be guided by the following questions:

  • Have digital technologies changed language?
  • Have digital technologies changed communication patterns?
  • What features of language are lost in digital communication? Does it matter?
  • What features of digital technologies are most important in shaping how language is used on the internet?
  • How do search engines work? How do we currently handle ambiguity? Could we do better?
  • How do online translators work?
  • How are facebook, twitter, IRC, chat, SMS, text, email, blogs, comments, etc. related?


By the end of this class, you will be able to:

  • Defend your own position about the current state of language on digital platforms.
  • Identify features of language that are affected by digital mediation.
  • Identify features of digital mediation that affect language and communication.
  • Explain how internet searches work.
  • Explain how translation services work.
  • Quantify the differences between various digital platforms.
  • Articulate a research question about language on a digital platform.
  • Conduct original preliminary research on that question.
  • Present your research in a way that allows you or others to build on your findings.
  • Use a wide variety of digital tools for communication and collaboration.
  • Argue against empty, sensationalist or apocalyptic claims about the effect digital technologies are having on language.


This is largely a discussion course. Since you have as much, if not more, experience using digital technologies for communication, your viewpoints, experiences and opinions are crucial to developing a complete understanding of this current state of language on the internet. Research on learning theory has shown that people learn best by asking questions and working together (Fagen, Crouch, & Mazur, 2002), so you will be expected to come together as a class to develop your ideas and perspectives on the topics. This class is based on concepts and ideas – not memorizing content, and your main assignment in this class is to synthesize a variety of perspectives with your experience to create a publically consumable piece of work. Since education itself is based on questions and answers (& the explanations) (Bain, 2004; Lang, 2010), one of the main goals of this class is for you to ask a question about language on the internet and to research it.  Every week we will be focused on a specific topic within the realm of internet linguistics. The topics we are looking at are by no means exhaustive, and after the midterm, they are open to modification if there is sufficient group interest.



Each week, you are expected to post at least 3 tweets related to the class marked with the class hashtag #IntLng. These tweets must connect topics from the class to your real-world experience, so when you are reading about how search engines work, you are expected to send a tweet that is related to using a search engine.

Each week, at least one of these tweets must relate to the topic of that week. For example, February 4th, we will talk about the degradation of the English language as a result of using abbreviations, punctuation, etc. So between January 28th and February 4th before class, you must send a tweet about abbreviations or punctuation, etc. Let’s say that your friend sends you a text that says “see you later lol”, but nothing in the text is actually funny, this would be a good tweet to send:


The other two tweets that week can be about any topic we have covered so far.

Blog Posts

Each week, we will be covering a new topic, and students will take turns leading the discussion that week. These posts are your opportunity to get feedback on your thinking about these topics and will likely help you develop a research question. Since this class is based on developing an understanding of language on a digital medium, these posts will be crucial to both developing that understanding and practicing communicating about ideas on a digital platform. Posts are worth 2 points each – 1 point for a response (one word or “empty” responses do not count), 1 point for furthering the discussion (i.e., doing more than reiterating what has already been said).

If you are the leader for the week, you have two responsibilities:

  1. You must post a response to the readings – motivating the conversation. The blog post should be a well thought out and considered response to the readings. Therefore, you should be certain to read all of the assigned pieces well in advance to give yourself at least some time to reflect on them. Your post should further the discussion – bringing in your experience and your world knowledge to the theory presented. It is not simply a statement of agreement or disagreement, rather, you need to give your opinion on the matter or bring another point to the argument being made. You can bring all of the readings together and integrate the ideas throughout in order to make some commentary about the topic or take one reading’s argument to its logical extreme – doing an in-depth discussion of how one author treats the subject.
  2. You will lead the discussion for the week – bringing your perspective and ideas to the table to open the class discussion of the topic. You can use the post you made on the blog as a starting point or bring in more ideas/perspectives as they have arisen.

Because there is more writing associated with this responsibility, you do not have to post to twitter for this week. Any tweets you send (up to 3) will be considered extra credit.

If you are NOT the leader, you have two responsibilities:

  1. You must respond to the post made by the leader, commenting on the topic and the leader’s response to the topic. “I agree” or other empty responses do not count. Your job is to engage with the argument – what do you think about the leader’s response to the readings?  Did you have a similar or different reaction? You are welcome to elaborate on the leader’s response in your own.
  2. You will be an active participant in the discussion that week.


At the mid-point of the semester, you will submit a proposal for your research question. Your proposal will be the guiding document for your final research paper. You must pose the question and explain why the question is interesting from a linguistic perspective. You can research any area of linguistics and any domain of digital communication. The goal of this paper is to convince me that your topic is interesting and worth your time researching. As ideas come to you, please come see me during office hours to develop your idea. In addition to posing your question, you will propose how you would like to treat the topic. You are welcome to write a research paper, but you are also welcome to create a website, write a manual, design a game, propose a curriculum, write a newspaper article, put together a pinterest board, etc. All projects should be discussed with me in advance so we can decide on what is a reasonable workload. Specific Guidelines for the proposal will be distributed separately.

Final Project

Your final project will come out of the proposal and will address a topic in linguistics on a digital platform. You must have a public component and a written component to this project.  The degree to which it is public and the degree to which it is written are specific to your project, however. Grading will be based on integration of ideas from the course with your own observations/interactions with the world and how well you articulate your logic and ideas.



You are responsible to attend all meetings of class. Since the majority of this class is based on group discussion, it will be very difficult to develop well-rounded, nuanced ideas and opinions on the topics without attending the lectures. There is no attendance policy, per se, since it is built into your participation grade. However, if you must miss 2 or more sessions and we will work together to find supplemental readings to recover some of the material.

Turning in work

This course involves twitter assignments, a project proposal, and a final project building on the ideas and concepts addressed in the class.

  • The twitter assignments are due before class each week.
  • The project proposal
  • The two tests will not be accepted late since we will be going over them the next day in class.
  • The final paper (a SQUIB) will be accepted until December 17th at 5pm. You have as many opportunities as you like to get feedback until then and can submit as many drafts as you care to do until that point. Due to the time bound nature of the semester (it’s an achievement – not an activity), I cannot accept late SQUIBS.

Late Work

You will not receive credit for late tweets or blog posts since these will form the basis of the discussion each week.

Academic Integrity

Stand on the shoulders of giants.[1]

All students will uphold academic integrity and only engage in ethical intellectual conduct. This means students will not plagiarize, use fabricated data, present biased findings, or present opinions as fact.


  1. Copying word for word someone else’s work.
  2. Paraphrasing someone else’s ideas without giving credit to the original source (of the idea- not just the words).
    1. This includes sources taken from the internet. It is far better to cite webpages (including Wikipedia) and give credit where credit is due than to accidentally take someone else’s idea or summary.
  3. Not indicating which ideas are from someone else within the text. A list of sources at the end of a paper is not sufficient –readers cannot identify which ideas are the author’s and which ideas are from another source.
  4. Here: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/plagiarism/ is an excellent source for information about plagiarism.  Here: http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/student-affairs/documents/student-handbook-02.pdf is Lehman’s policy.

The best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return. It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.   –Arthur C. Clarke


Students will utilize the course website to download supplemental readings, videos and podcasts. There is a link to the course webpage on the blackboard site, but the course materials will not be hosted on blackboard. I mostly use the course website and email. Therefore, it is very important that I have an email address for you that you regularly use.

For technology needs, students have access to the library, which has a multimedia lab as well, where all of these materials can be listened to/watched.

If you are having trouble with technology on campus, please call the Help Desk at 718-960-1111 or visit them in Carman Hall.

Technology in the Classroom

If you are using your phone, laptop, ipad, etc. to take notes, look up things relevant to the course, live tweet the class, etc., I encourage you to bring your device. If it’ll be a distraction, I encourage you to leave it in your bag as there will be significant amounts of discussion that are critical to developing your ideas on the topics – so distractions are just that: a “drawing away of the mind,” from Latin distractionem (“the definition of distraction,” n.d.).

Finally, this is a class based on discussion – which is something impermanent that ephemeral – this conversation will never happen this way again. Recently, there have been many articles and stories of “unplugging” and “being present” and the impact that phones, computers, etc. have on our attention. So, I challenge you to unplug and be present so we can collectively analyze exactly what it is that pulls us into those devices so strongly.



Lehman College is committed to providing access to all programs and curricula to all students.  Students with disabilities who may need classroom accommodations are encouraged to register with the Office of Student Disability Services.  Once you have registered, please bring me documentation from them for any assistance that you will need to help you succeed. Without documentation, I will not make accommodations. If you have specific accommodations that will help make you more successful, please tell me as early in the semester as possible.

For more information, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shuster Hall, Room 238; phone number, 718-960-8441.  Accommodations will only be granted with documentation

Discrimination Policy

Lehman College does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, national origin, religion, handicap, or political belief, in any of its educational programs and activities, including employment practices and its policies relating to recruitment and admission of students.

Tutoring/Writing Center

The Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) and the Science Learning Center (SLC) are two of the tutoring centers on campus. The ACE provides appointment based and drop-in tutoring in the humanities, social sciences, and writing, as well as general writing and academic skills workshops. The SLC provides drop-in tutoring for natural and computer science courses. To obtain more information about the ACE and the SLC, please visit their website at http://www.lehman.edu/issp, or please call the ACE at 718-960-8175, and the SLC at 718-960-7707.


  1. Twitter: 20%
  2. Blogs: 25%
  3. Proposal: 25%
  4. Final Project: 30%
95-100% A 83-86% B 71-74% C 60-65% D
91-94% A- 79-82% B- 70-73% C- Below 60% F
87-90% B+ 75-78% C+ 66-69% D+



[1] This quote is currently Google Scholar’s motto, but originally from Isaac Newton in a letter about his scientific discoveries “If I have seen far, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants” (“Standing on the shoulders of giants,” 2013). It is also used in the free software movement, which is committed to the collaborative building of works by and for the people rather than ownership of our tools, efforts and creativity by corporations (Lessig, 2007). For more on this, visit http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

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