Online Polylogues and the Speech Acts of Online Discussion Forums

Chaka Chaka, University of South Africa


This study investigated online polylogues and the speech acts encoded in online discussion forums (ODFs) that occur as part of computer-mediated communication. These ODFs took the form of text-only online polylogues involving multiple participants who engaged in multiple conversations. The data were sourced from a sample of messages drawn from a corpus of 400 messages posted to the three ODFs: Becomingwebhead, EVObasic_internet, and Tesolflashmx. Four of the findings of the study are worth mentioning. First, the three ODFs displayed five types of polylogal thread messages. Second, the polylogal frequencies and the sequential structure displayed by the thread topics varied according to the number of participants who posted messages, the topic discussed, and the intensity of the discussion. Third, the participation framework and the conversation structure followed both (semi)regular and irregular patterns of adjacency pairs. Fourth, some of the speech acts performed by participants in their polylogal discussions included greeting, welcoming, informing, advising, thanking, congratulating, and promising.

Keywords: online discussion forums, online polylogues, thread messages, pragmatics, speech acts

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