Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Use of Text Messaging by Deaf Adolescents in Japan

Academic journal article Sign Language Studies

Use of Text Messaging by Deaf Adolescents in Japan

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE, the popularity of mobile phones, coupled with their peer-oriented mode of socialization, leads us to assume that all demographic types of adolescents engage in widespread mobile texting. In Japan, text messaging is highly popular among adolescents for several reasons, including easy connectivity, no temporal and spatial restrictions, and the avoidance of direct talk about a sensitive topic (Miyake 2005). A more colloquial writing style is preferred as a way to increase intimacy and creativity, and word play is frequently used to add humor (Matsuda 2005; Miyake 2007).

Texting in Japanese is also known to embrace codelike expressions called gal-moji. Some characteristics oïgal-moji are unconventional orthographic mixtures (e.g., a random appearance of the Roman alphabet in a Japanese sentence) or the use of Greek mathematical symbols (e.g., ?) or other foreign fonts such as Cyrillic letters (e.g., JX), among other unique inventions for cell phone written communication in Japanese (Miyake 2005, 2007). Although constant connectivity with peers via cell phone brings a sense of tsunagarikan, or a feeling of closeness, it can cause technologically induced stress in a personal relationship (Miyake 2005, 2007; Nakamura and Watanabe 2005). A relatively strong visual orientation inherent in Japanese society is said to have enhanced all types of written symbols in mobile writing (Miyake 2007). Techno-savvy youths continue to set new trends in technology-mediated language use, such as word truncation, unconventional orthography, and a variety of pictographs, kao-moji (horizontally drawn smileys and other symbols with facial expressions), and e-moji (graphic symbols that resemble objects and concepts). Currently, however, kao-moji are becoming outmoded as a new form of pictographs, deko-me (short for dekoreeshion-meeru, or decoration mail), is taking center stage in Japanese teens' visually rich discourse while providing them with a simple and always available means of communication with their peers.

Yet, no single study has investigated the manner of and extent to which the technology of text messaging has impacted linguistic minorities such as deaf students in Japan. Current research into the topic of mobile communication has been carried out exclusively with monolingual, hearing adolescents. Few studies, if any, have examined the interface between the technology of texting and a linguistic minority that is still learning to adopt the language of the mainstream society of the target country. To the majority of deaf children in Japan, the mastery of the written Japanese language, which contains about two thousand ideographic characters and two sets of forty-six letter-based phonetic scripts is a daunting task even at the high school level. There is no way to write text messages in sign language. To participate in this technology-mediated communication, Japanese deaf adolescents are forced to rely on the language of the majority: written Japanese.

To see whether deaf students use the technology of texting in much the same way that hearing high school students do, a new study is needed. This article seeks to shed light on an underrepresented adolescent group in mobile communication research by documenting the results of a survey undertaken at a residential high school for the deaf in Japan. The subjects comprised seventy-five adolescents between the ages of 15 and 20 with varying degrees of hearing impairment. The students' survey responses were collected at the school and were interpreted, along with input from the teachers and other involved individuals also interviewed for this study. The school survey was intended to assess the texting frequency, purposes, and several other characteristics associated with deaf adolescents' mobile communication and also to see whether their use of text messaging would be characteristically different from that of the previously surveyed hearing high school students. …

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