Disjointed conversations

When chatting on instant message programs like MSN Messenger or using the online chat function on Skype, conversations often become quite disjointed. You might respond to what the other person just said, then they respond to something you said earlier. Fortunately you can look back at what’s been said and work out what they’re on about. When more than two people are involved, it can be even more confusing. 而且如果你同时用几门不同的语言聊天,比如说,一边讲汉语,一邊講國語 and talking English to someone else, 就会混淆得不得了!

Instant messaging is probably the form of written language nearest to spoken conversation, but it’s not the same. In spoken conversation there are extralinguistic cues which, among other things, can indicate when it’s your turn to speak – usually our intonation goes down when we’ve finished speaking, something that happens without conscious thought. Such cues are missing in IM chats.

Email ‘conversations’ can be even more disjointed, especially when many people are involved. Sometimes I receive emails after they’ve back and forth between various people many times. To work out what they want me to do, I have to plough back through the whole discussion, and maybe contact some of those involved to clear up some of the details.

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