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CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. the Deaf and suggestions for further research are also included.

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CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5.0 Introduction This chapter discusses the main findings of this study in relation to the three research questions. The researcher will attempt to
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CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5.0 Introduction This chapter discusses the main findings of this study in relation to the three research questions. The researcher will attempt to draw some conclusions based on the findings as well discuss other issues that were extracted from the data. Recommendations to address the use of mobile phones for SMS text messaging by the Deaf and suggestions for further research are also included. 5.1 Summary of the Findings and conclusions For centuries, linguistic communication has for most educated people, been a question of choosing between speech and writing. In our lifetime however, this choice has been extended by the arrival of a further means of communication electronic medium which is neither clearly speech nor clearly writing (Crystal, D., 2005:152) The electronic revolution is bringing about a communication and linguistic revolution. It is changing not only the way the Deaf communicate, but also the way they use and manipulate the language to get the message across. The interactants use old tools (written language) to configure new ones, and in the process the reconfigure the old tools (Keating, E. & Mirus, G. 2003:694). This groundbreaking situation makes the Deaf community a particularly interesting group to research into relationships between technological innovations and their new communicative practices. 151 More specifically, the study aimed to answer three main questions pertaining to mobile phone use and the SMS text messages of the Deaf community selected. The three important research questions were: 1. What is the SMS texting behaviour of the Deaf community selected? 2. What are the communicative themes and orientation of the SMS texts used by the Deaf community selected? 3. What are the features of the SMS text messages of the Deaf community selected? These three research questions give a better understanding of the way the Deaf use the mobile phone as a means of communication with other Deaf and hearing counterparts. It gives insights into the types of SMS text messages sent by the Deaf and the purposes they fulfill. In addition, the study examines the linguistic features of their SMS text messages, and in doing so it illustrates to what extent the Deaf have attempted to adopt and adapt the English Language for SMS text messaging. 152 Research Question One What is the SMS text messaging behaviour of the Deaf participants selected? Information for this question was obtained through non participation and participation observations, discussions with selected Deaf participants and findings from a questionnaire survey administered to 30 members of the Deaf Club of the YMCA Kuala Lumpur. The most salient feature was the close proximity of the mobile phone to the Deaf participants. The perpetual physical contact is to enable to the Deaf participants to feel the vibrations of the mobile phone and be alerted to incoming SMS message. They can be seen constantly touching and checking their phone to ensure it is on vibrating mode and if they had overlooked any SMS message. All the messages are promptly replied and they do so even in the midst of other activities, even face-to-face interaction. They are available almost all the time and they are known to send and reply messages even late at night. They also send SMS text messages to others who are co-present and sometimes within viewing distance enabling them to engage in private communication in public places. All the 5 participants in the discussion agreed that the mobile phone had changed their communication behaviour as now communication via SMS text messaging has become an integral part of their life. All of them have been using the mobile phone for SMS messaging for about four years and they bought the phone within the first year of working. They spend an average of RM on their monthly prepaid card and send and receive an average of 10 SMS text 153 messages a day. However there have been instances when they sent as many as 50 SMS text messages in a day. Communication via SMS text messaging has greatly transformed their lifestyle and improved their quality of life. They appreciate the sense of independence and security it has brought to them. They do not have to meet in the physical to communicate and can now communicate directly without the assistance of an intermediary. They can carry out everyday activities, just like the hearing, for instance to buy tickets for a movie or order a meal. They said it is especially useful in an emergency, to call for a mechanic when the car breaks down or to notify the bank when the wallet is lost. The Deaf participants mostly communicate with other Deaf friends, family and colleagues. Only 16 percent said they communicate with hearing friends. SMS messages are sent mainly to seek or give information, request and to coordinate domestic, work, business and social affairs. All of them said they used English, Malay and a combination of English and Malay in their text messages. According to some of them their English proficiency had improved since using SMS text messaging to communicate. Most of them said they use short forms sometimes but the findings from the questionnaire concur with the problems they encounter. The Deaf participants did not know meaning of all the 10 short forms asked. There were also differing interpretations of the short forms. The problems that the Deaf participants were mainly on misinterpretation of the SMS text messages because the messages are not clear or because of lack of knowledge of the short forms used. They also cited lack of proficiency in the English language as a reason. 154 Research Question Two What are the communicative themes and orientation of the SMS texts used by the Deaf community selected? The 540 text messages were analysed and assigned into groups according to their communicative themes and orientations. The communicative themes and orientations were classified following Thurlow s (2003) typology. Thurlow s typology had nine categories. However, the messages in the corpus of this study were assigned to eight categories only. There were no messages which corresponded to Thurlow s ninth category that of Sexual Orientation. However, the researcher does not assume that text messages of this nature were not sent as these being private and intimate communication. The messages could have been censored and withheld by the participants. Out of the 540 SMS text messages, 73.7 percent (398) of them were sent to other Deaf people. Only 26.3 percent of the messages were communication with the hearing people. This confirms the findings from the questionnaire where the Deaf participants said they communicate mainly with Deaf friends and family. Power (2004), stated that SMS messages are breaking down communication barriers among Deaf people and between Deaf and hearing people. However, it appears that the Deaf participants in this study are using SMS text messaging, more to communicate among themselves rather than the hearing. The most frequent (202 messages) theme was that of the Information- Relational Orientation. The messages were mainly interpersonal, where the Deaf participants updated, reported or exchanged information or news of a personal nature. This findings from the SMS texts concurred closely with the findings from the discussions and the questionnaire survey. All of them agreed that the majority 155 of their SMS text messages were sent to friends (mainly the Deaf) and family members. Communication via SMS text messaging provided an avenue for serious as well as intimate discussions amongst family and friends. The next most frequently occurring theme was that of Practical- Arrangement Orientation with 106 (19.6 %) of the messages with this theme. The messages were mainly formal, work related or practical arrangements for meetings of a formal nature. It also enabled them to communicate with others, while enroute, to reschedule pre-arranged plans. It is this finely tuned arrangement making which demonstrates as one of the clearest instances of the mobile phone shaping a new and distinctive style of social interaction. (Ling & Yttri, 2002:144). This greatly enhances the mobility of the Deaf participants as they can communicate while on the move. The Deaf do not have to be at a specific place to receive information and this increases the efficiency of planning their everyday activities. The next in ranking was the Information-Practical Orientation with 17.4 percent of the SMS messages in this category. The messages here also dealt with the exchange of information of practical details but of a more informal nature. It included commands and requests between friends and club members pertaining to the Deaf club activities. Messages in this category also reflected how the Deaf are now using SMS text messaging to coordinate their everyday domestic activities with parents and children, similarly husbands and wives communicate household issues. The communicative theme of 8.1 percent of the messages was of the Friendship-Maintenance Orientation. The messages were sent just for the purpose of expressing affection and confirming that the relationship exists and would continue in the future. SMS text messages are technologies of sociability, as much 156 of what is transported to and fro is at the level of phatic communion (Hutchby, 2001). This scenario does not mean that the Deaf are now resorting to this new and novel of communication and replacing face-to-face communication. They still prefer face-to-face communication as SMS texting cannot replace the visual sign language which is their first language. Nevertheless, to borrow Thurlow s (2002) description, the SMS texting has come to be seamlessly stitched into the lives of the Deaf enhancing their communication as most of the SMS messages of this orientation are arrangements to meet in the physical and socialize. 7.8 percent of the messages in the corpus are Social-Arrangement Orientation, arranging to meet for dinner or to go bowling. 7.2 percent of the messages were of the Salutary Orientation; these messages were non specific and merely friendly greetings. These salutary greetings sometimes served to ascertain the availability or readiness of the recipient to proceed with the communication. The salutary greetings were also used to identify themselves as the Deaf are known to use each other s mobile phone when they ran out of credit and had not activated their prepaid card on their own mobile phones. The caller ID would not identify them on the receiver s mobile phone. That could be one reason why they usually identified themselves in the salutation Hi Hxxxx here.. Apart from the above mentioned themes, a small percentage (1.7%) of the messages sent was of a romantic nature. These included expressions of affection between boyfriend/girlfriend and spouses. There were also a few chain messages (0.7%) forwarded from one Deaf person to another as gifts on special occasions such as Mother s Day, New Year s Day and Christmas. 157 5.1.3 Research Question Three What are the features of the SMS text messages of the Deaf community selected? Out of the 540 messages in the corpus, 89 percent of them were less than 100 character space length. The shortest message consisted of 2 letters. 8 of the messages appeared as split messages as it exceeded the 160 character space limitation. The average message length was 13 words with about 80 characters with spaces. SMS communication is said to be a hybrid between spoken and written communication with more features of the spoken than the written form. In the case of the SMS text messages in the corpus, they SMS text messages of the Deaf participants resembled written messages. When communicating via SMS text messaging, the Deaf participants cannot see the receiver thus cannot rely on the paralinguistic cues or context to help make clear what they mean, as they would when interacting in face-to-face communication. The Deaf learn the written form of the language not the spoken form. This could be the reason why their SMS texts resembled more closely to the written form rather than the spoken form. In traditional writing non standard spelling is heavily penalized but it is used without sanction in the SMS text message. In this informal mode of interpersonal communication the receivers are interested in the information and attitudes expressed in the text messages. Any spelling errors would not be an indication of a lack of education or a lack of knowledge of the correct form. As 158 Power (2004) states, the characteristics of this genre suit the sometimes limited English of the Deaf people. The SMS text messages of the Deaf participants had relatively few contractions and abbreviations. Short forms need phonological awareness. The Deaf are not able to phonetically represent the word because of their disability. As the Deaf participants are all profoundly and prelingually deaf they have no knowledge of the sound of the language. The ability to adapt is central to human behaviour. Just like the hearing majority, the Deaf too have shown evidence that they have adapted the written language and this is seen in their SMS text messages. The study shows that the Deaf are attempting through functional use and mistakes to adopt and adapt their written language to the nuances of the texting language short forms, contractions, clippings and consonant writing. The abbreviations are few, appear randomly and used on an ad hoc basis. The same Deaf participants used different non-standard orthography in different messages. There were also instances of the same participant using different forms in the same text message. They did use any prescriptive rules to abbreviate the words. Most the SMS text messages did not utilize the maximum character limit. The shortest message was only 2 letters for words like tq and ok. This indicated that abbreviations and short forms were used not as a result of message length limitation. Punctuation is used minimally in most messages. There is no the strict adherence to conventions of punctuations. Most of the SMS text messages do not end in a full stop to indicate closure. However there are instances of punctuation borrowed from chatroom and conventions to act as paralinguistic cues. Use 159 of smileys and combination of punctuations were employed by the Deaf participants to emote their SMS text messages and indicate mirth, embarrassment and hesitation Further Discussion The Deaf used SMS text messaging even when their interlocutors were copresent and within viewing distance of each other. SMS text messaging enabled the Deaf to have private exchanges of information between them. When they communicate in sign language, anyone within viewing range can also be privy to their conversation. When the hearing want to have a private exchange, they can whisper to their interlocutor. Now with SMS text messaging, the Deaf too can have private conversations akin to whisper. The Deaf participants used the formal language for text messages when the context was formal (work related) or to indicate respect for someone older. Informal language which included slang, abbreviations and insider vocabulary that the members of the text circle would understand were used with friends and peers. PTL and GBU to mean Prasie the Lord and God Bless You are used in SMS text messages sent to Deaf friends who belong to the same church community. Studies have noted that people text the way they speak. Following the same analogy the Deaf should text the way they sign, that is the way they communicate in sign language. However, it could not be ascertained that there was much influence of sign language in the SMS text messages of the Deaf participants. This could be because they were already exposed to the written form of the spoken 160 language in schools, be it English or Malay. Although sign language is their natural language, in Malaysia, it is not used as the medium of instruction in schools. They use Signed Malay and English which uses the syntax and grammar of Malay and English and not that of Sign Language (which is a distinct language with its own syntax and grammar). Furthermore Sign Language is a visual language and they do not learn the written form of the Sign Language. However, some evidence of sign language influence could be seen in the SMS text messages analysed in the form they present. They present the noun before the adjective or adverb for example nite tomorrow, training sport and tale fairy. Some words in the English language are signed the same way for example taller and higher The Deaf are unable to distinguish the lexical item in English and hence they are used interchangeably. The Deaf also incorporate code mixing in their text messages and there were even literal translation from Malay to English. Their text messages were very similar to the Malaysian English used by the hearing majority in social contexts. This is reflective of the informal register of SMS to establish solidarity and bonding amongst the close group of text friends. It was noted that even the Malay words used in their messages had evidence of shortenings for example tlg for tolong. SMS is an asynchronous communication as it is a store and forward means of communication. SMS text messages can be sent even when the receiver s mobile phone is not active. The message will be stored in a central store and delivered when the receipient s phone is switched on and within coverage. However the perpetual accesibility (Ling & Yttri 2002) of the Deaf participants allows for near conversational levels of synchronous texting when both the 161 interlocutors are available to send and receive the SMS messages at the same time. By using an asynchronous medium they were able to approximate near synchronous text chat situations, thus enabling them to have non face-to-face text conversations. The SMS text chats found in the corpus included idle chatting (that is small talk) as well as discussions of more important practical and personal matters. Conversation was stilted and it lacked the pace of face-to-face communication. The time lapse between two messages ranged from one minute for the shortest time lapse to 12 hours and 6 minutes for the longest. Although there was no real-time interaction, structures of conversation like turn taking, opening and closing and certain adjacency pairs were prevalent in the SMS text chats, that is questions were followed by answers (not the other way round) and opinions/comments were followed by comments Limitations of the Study There were some limitations in the scope, methodology and the analysis of the data. The scope of this study is limited to the Deaf participants selected from two Deaf clubs in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. The Deaf participants were also from a select group of the Deaf namely the profoundly and prelingually Deaf to enable data to be collected from a homogenous group. Hence the results do not reflect the general Deaf population throughout the country. During the observations of their texting behaviour, the presence of the researcher as a non participative observer may have influenced the Deaf participants behaviour as they were very conscious of the presence of the 162 researcher. This could have skewed the observation. There were many backward glances in the direction of the researcher. When there was eye contact they reacted with half smiles and quickly turned back. Furthermore, they were communicating in Sign Language which the researcher could not comprehend. Discussions with the Deaf participants prior to researcher learning Sign Language was by pen and paper methods which was very laborious and the participants were reluctant to proceed after a while. Although very popular and widely used, SMS text messages are considered private communication between two people. Hence there was hesitance to allow their messages to be used as part of the textual da
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