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Instant messaging in office hours: Use of ellipsis dots at work and Hong Kong culture

Journal: International Journal of Language Studies (Vol.8, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 25-50

Keywords : Workplace Discourse Analysis; Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis; Instant Messaging; Punctuation; Ellipsis Dots; Culture; Hong Kong;

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This study investigates how ellipsis dots can have a subtle contribution to instant messaging talk in a Hong Kong workplace, and how the use of them can reconstruct the prevailing ideological values in Hong Kong culture. Based on Wenger’s (1998) framework of communities of practice and Gee’s (2011) model of discourse analysis, the result demonstrates that ellipsis dots play an invisible but vital role in instant messaging interactions of humor, gossip, code-switching, mentoring and core-business issues. As a text-free turn or combined with other symbolic strategies, ellipsis dots (1) indicate speechlessness to respond to humor or intensify surprise, (2) visualize thinking in progress to moderate code-switching or mitigate instructive comments, (3) help to hold the conversational floor for better alignment and cooperativeness, and (4) imitate on-and-off speech for hedging and bad news. Lying behind these phenomena is the replay of Hong Kong cultural preferences of staying harmonious, cooperative and friendly, maintaining the balance between individualism and social relationships, and keeping the equilibrium between face pace and safe communication. It is concluded that ellipsis dots can be a conscious paralinguistic strategy in accomplishing work- and/or socially-oriented goals in workplace instant messaging, and that the use of ellipsis dots is both culturally-constructed and culturally-constructive.

Last modified: 2014-06-21 12:17:23