Years ago, when I was doing my Bachelor of Arts, I majored in linguistics as well as professional writing. You could say that I was literally a teenage linguist (as well as a teenage writer). After I graduated, I didn’t immediately pursue a career as an artist. In fact, I had big ambitions to become an academic in the discipline of linguistics and I began an honours degree in linguistics. However, mid-way through my honours degree, I decided to pursue a career in the arts. I resumed writing fiction and poetry, and I dropped out of my course. Years later, I drew on my background in linguistics when doing my PhD in professional writing. But, by and large, I’ve been out of linguistics for more than a decade.
However, over the years, there has been one little leftover matter from my life in linguistics. Back in around 1996, a study that I conducted as part of my honours degree was accepted for publication in a volume of linguistic studies of what is known as computer-mediated communication. At the time, I was researching linguistic features of e-mail. I was doing my honours degree part-time and I had conducted a pilot study on my topic in the first year of my two-year course. The write-up of this pilot study was accepted as a chapter in this volume. At the time, for me as a budding researcher, the acceptance of the article was really exciting. However, due to various circumstances (a change of publishers, the injury of the editor in a car accident, multiple revisions required by the contributors, and more), the volume remained in press for over a decade. Over the years, I considered deleting the in-press publication from my CV, but then I would receive an email from the editor which would give me hope that maybe the volume would finally be published after all.
Anyway, as it turns out, after around 16 years of being in press, the article is going to be published – in LANGUAGE@INTERNET, “an open-access, peer-reviewed, scholarly electronic journal that publishes original research on language and language use mediated by the Internet, the World Wide Web, and mobile technologies”. I have just revised the article for what I think has literally been the 10th time and sent it to the editor. Although my ambitions to be an academic – let alone one in the area of linguistics – have long since gone, it is pretty cool knowing that the article will be published. The study undoubtedly has its limitations. It is also rather retro in feel, given that it analysed the linguistic features of e-mail and memoranda from a workplace in 1996. My article contains references to DOS, computer disks and Microsoft Word 6. But it is also a nice time capsule of sorts – an early study from what was back then a burgeoning area of linguistic research, and also a personal reminder to me of the period when I was a ‘teenage linguist’.