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Puerto Rican language use on Facebook.


One of the products of our industrialized world has been the increased importance of the Internet and, in particular, social media services like Facebook. Within the past decade, social media services such as MySpace and Facebook have grown from being used mainly by teenagers and college students to being used by the majority of Internet users. Today, Facebook plays an important role in the lives of millions as it serves as a news source, connects users to family and friends, and allows organizations to create a digital presence. Within the academy, Facebook has been the venue for countless studies ranging from the impact of cyberbullying (Kwan and Skoric 2013) to research identifying how social networks impact personalized advertising and privacy controls (Tucker 2014). Despite the plethora of recent research on the popular social networking service, relatively little research has been conducted that documents authentic language use. For the purpose of this study, we are defining "authentic language use" as text written in informal settings for communicative purposes with the users of the social media service Facebook. In this study we use Facebook as our sole source of data to document how island Puerto Ricans are using language.

One of the pervasive narratives throughout the island of Puerto Rico is that the language of islanders is changing, and it is the general assumption that this language change is in the wrong direction. The everyday use of borrowed words like parking, janguiar, and countless others, along with the outright use of English instead of Spanish, is evidence that Puerto Ricans who cling to a "pure" version of Spanish use to support their opinion regarding the demise of Spanish. While these opinions are not as present in the academic literature on Puerto Rican Spanish, Puerto Ricans living on the island can relate to family members, friends, and teachers drawing attention to their "incorrect" use of Spanish. While English is not always the reason for such "incorrect" use, there is a resounding perception that English indeed impacts Puerto Rican Spanish in an often negative manner, given the colonial relationship with the United States (Carroll 2015; Torres-Gonzalez 2002). Thus, the goal of this study is to systematically document authentic language use on Facebook among islanders in relation to Spanish versus English, whether a majority of posts used more standard writing conventions, and the extent to which netspeak is present. This paper compliments the growing body of research documenting the language of this Caribbean nation and how language continues to evolve in the digital age.

Facebook and Language

Since its origins approximately a decade ago, Facebook has taken the Internet by storm and become the fastest growing social networking service in the world. A study by Lenhard and colleagues (2009) on American social media and mobile internet use found that, as of 2009, a total of 93 percent of American teens and 74 percent of American adults were active online. Internet access is now common on users' phones and in their homes and businesses. The ease of access has contributed to the use of social media services like Facebook for just about everything from sending e-mail, posting pictures, sharing personal thoughts, listening to music, and interacting with almost anything that can be shared virtually. The 2012 public offering of Facebook further moved the company to drive advertising sales, legitimizing the popular social media service as a venue to attract business.

The impact that social media and Facebook in particular have is far reaching. Their use has impacted different language across the world and has even been used to document language maintenance efforts, particularly in the case of Welsh (Cunliffe, Morris and Prys 2013). In the classroom, Facebook has started to play an ever-present role as teachers attempt to go where their students already are. Within the field of education, Garcia (2009, 77) considered how "the internet has also increased our contact with other languages and bilingualism." She points out that while English continues to be the most-used language online, the web has provided opportunities for the use of other languages. Her analysis demonstrated that between the years of 2000 and 2008 there was a rise in the number of websites published in Arabic, Portuguese, Chinese, and French, thus showing the growth of the Internet around the world.

Garcia (2009) also describes the impact that instant messaging, an incorporated aspect of Facebook, can have on different languages practices. These rather new and evolving technologies create a context where "speakers are now free to choose a broader range of language practices than those offered by their immediate community and the school; and they can use them in ways that are not reflected in more institutionalized language practices of schools and official publications" (2009, 80-1).

The use of social media services like Facebook has become an important part of the lives of millions and has recently become a legitimate and popular arena for research. Some of the recent research where scholars have used Facebook aim to document the use of technology and its influence on language maintenance (Morris, Cunliffe and Prys 2012); how Facebook impacts the educational environment (Aydin 2012); or how it can impact users' psyches or influence cyberbullying (Kwan and Skoric 2013). In writing this paper, we sought to document and understand authentic use of language among Puerto Rican users of Facebook.

Known by many as the "Facebook phenomena," the social networking site reached Puerto Rico shortly after going live and has grown to be the number one webpage visited by Puerto Ricans (Alexa 2013). According to the Social Bakers website (2014), there are 1,279,420 island Puerto Ricans who currently use Facebook, meaning that roughly 34 percent of the present population is a user of the free social networking site. While the exact amount of time users spend on the site is difficult to measure, the social networking space is undoubtedly being used by a large cross-section of the population and thus can offer insight into how islanders are using language.

The first study to look at Puerto Rican language on the Internet was Carroll (2008), which examined Puerto Rican language use on MySpace. The author analyzed over fifty profiles and did a case study on three specific profiles of MySpace in order to look at the language use of Puerto Ricans through this social network. This paper seeks to build on Carroll (2008), offering a more modern look at language use on the now more popular Facebook. While Carroll (2008) focused on users from the ages of eighteen to twenty-two, this current research looks to better understand a larger cross-section of the Puerto Rican population, since Facebook users range in age much more than the users that were discussed in Carroll's original study (2008). Thus, in order to facilitate access to authentic language use among Puerto Ricans representing multiple age ranges, we chose to focus our data collection and analysis around public Facebook pages of various companies, entertainers, and special interest groups.

The Context of Language Use in Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico is found at the nexus of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The island's population is 3.6 million, according to the 2010 census, and there are close to four million Puerto Ricans living on the mainland US. After being colonized by Spain for more than 400 years, Spain ceded the island to the US as a result of the Spanish American War in 1898. Since becoming a colony of the US, English has been a co-official language of the island and holds high status and prestige. Early in the colonization efforts, US-appointed governors required the use of English as the medium of instruction, with varying success. As Puerto Rico gained local autonomy with the election of their own governor in the middle of the twentieth century, public schools started to use Spanish as the medium of instruction for all grades and English has been taught as a "preferred subject," where students take English class for fifty minutes a day, five days per week.

Apart from the public schools, Puerto Rico boasts a robust private education sector, with the vast majority of middle class and upper-class parents electing to pay for their children's schooling (Ladd and Rivera-Batiz 2006). This is evidenced by the 4.7 percent rise in private school enrollment during the years of 2009 and 2010 and a 2 percent decline in public schools over the same period (Disdier and Marazzi 2011). There are various reasons for this shift, which have been the subject of countless newspaper articles and blog entries. While there are indeed many factors that come into play when deciding whether to send one's child to a private school, access to improved English teaching, and often a bilingual curriculum, generally ranks among one of the primary reasons for making the leap to the private sector. Therefore, within Puerto Rican society, Spanish is undoubtedly the language that is most often used, but English holds great prestige (Schmidt 2014).

According to Blau and Dayton (1997), Puerto Rico is considered an ESL (English as a second language) society. Using Moag's Taxonomy of English-Using Societies, they concluded that "even though Puerto Rico is a society with a single vernacular, Puerto Rico is an ESL society in which the nonnative variety is a formal, standard variety of English learned through formal instruction and used in formal domains" (1997, 144). In other words, the English language is used in formal domains and is also often learned both in formal schooling and through participation in other activities such as watching cable TV, playing video games, or socializing with English-speaking friends or family members.

Blau and Dayton also mention other areas where English is used. Even though it is used mostly in formal domains, different types of media such as commercials, TV shows, magazines, newspapers, and music are greatly influenced by English. Many Puerto Ricans watch US programs via cable TV. Examples such as the World Series being shown in English and DJs of radio stations constantly code-switching to attract younger audiences show how English has become part of the everyday use of many Puerto Ricans.

Over the 115 years of US colonization, Puerto Ricans have maintained Spanish as the dominant language of the island (Carroll 2015). Nevertheless, English holds high status on the island and is used in the federal court system (Pousada 2008), as well as among specialists in areas from medicine to veterinarians and engineers to accountants (Mazak 2012). Despite the fact that many Puerto Ricans are constantly in contact with English, the purpose of this research is to evaluate the extent to which and the contexts in which Puerto Rican Facebook users are using Spanish, English, or a mixture of the two.


Conducting research on social media is a complex venture. It was just a short time ago that most social media websites were open for public perusal, and thus for studies like Carroll (2008) it was easy for researchers to view profiles and systematically document users' language because there were relatively few privacy settings and profiles were publicly available. However, with ever-increasing privacy measures being instituted to protect users, doing research on language use has become an increasingly difficult task. Gaining access to profiles has its own set of challenges, namely: Do you ask strangers for access? If you use your own friends, who are they? Are they of one particular social group or educational level, or from one geographic region? If friends are used, they would necessarily be connected to the research and could potentially reflect the researcher's interests, age, and even social group. Furthermore, how does one gain informed consent for such a project? After taking all of these questions into consideration, we decided not to use any particular profiles that were blocked with privacy settings but instead to use public pages that any user of Facebook could access.

The public pages used in this research appear like normal user profiles but differ in that they are not generally created for personal use but to promote a company, event, or public figure, among other things. For this paper we used Facebook's six categories for public profiles and abbreviated them to LEAP2C (local business/place, entertainment, arts/public figures, products/ brand, company/organization/institution, cause/community). Within each of these general categories of public pages on Facebook, there are subcategories that give the administrator the chance to narrow to a specific category. For example, in the case of the entertainment category, the administrator can choose from over twenty other subcategories ranging from book to movie character.

After a public page is created, any user of Facebook can visit that page and leave comments. Had we used specific profiles, we would have been limited to those of our friends and possibly friends' friends. We felt that such analysis would not have given us an accurate portrayal of Puerto Rican language use. However, using the LEAP2C pages provided us a more comprehensive corpus of data to examine language use among Puerto Ricans. All of the LEAP2C pages that were selected appeal to a wide range of the Puerto Rican population.

The most challenging part of our data collection was selecting the different LEAP2Cs that would be used in the analysis. In an attempt to include pages that we thought would provide a realistic and representative sample, we used the following criteria: 1) The page had to be directed toward island Puerto Ricans. This was determined by looking at the way they were rhetorically constructed for a particular audience. For example, a page that read "KFC Puerto Rico" or "Walgreen's Puerto Rico" was chosen because the target audience was obviously Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico. 2) The page had to have more than 5,000 likes but not more than 500,000 likes. This way, we had an ample number of users and raised the likelihood of frequent activity on the page. Too many likes would have signaled that some of the posts would have been made by non-Puerto Ricans. For example, Ricky Martin, a world-famous Puerto Rican entertainer, had millions of likes, and therefore it was obvious that they were coming from all over the world. 3) An even distribution of pages from different towns around the island. 4) Pages that targeted different users' ages and sexes. We wanted to have an even distribution of pages targeted to a wide range of ages and made sure to choose pages that targeted multiple age groups and both male and female users. For example, we selected pages that addressed those who enjoy new, urban music, which we believed to appeal to a younger demographic. We also chose other pages like the AEE, Puerto Rico's electrical company, whose visitors on Facebook would likely be only those who have a home or an apartment that they pay the electricity for. Focusing solely on pages targeting a younger or an older audience would have skewed the results and would not have provided a comprehensive view of Puerto Rican language use.

After establishing the criteria, we went through hundreds of pages. We chose five pages from each of the LEAP2C categories, for a total of thirty pages. This was a difficult task because many pages lacked at least one of our criteria. The pages either had too many or not enough likes or they were all located in the San Juan metro area, thus limiting the distribution. We also encountered situations where we had a large demographic of young adults and lacked representation of others. Following the guidelines above limited us to a specific set of pages, which took time to locate. It was after multiple meetings and discussions that both of us came to a joint decision on the pages we would include. Furthermore, searching for pages on Facebook can be difficult because there was not a search function specifically designed to look for pages. The easiest pages to find were the sponsored ones, which generally appeared at the sides of users' newsfeed. For additional pages we had to rely on the prior knowledge we had about local pages or because someone in our network of Facebook friends liked a particular page. We did not want all of the pages we examined to be those of advertisers because this would also have given us a limited perspective.

Once the pages were identified, the next step in our data collection was to compile screenshots of each page. Using the Grab program by Apple, we took a total of ten screenshots of the thirty unique Facebook pages in order to have a record of the language that was being used on each page. Furthermore, the use of these screenshots allowed us to go back and analyze specific language use at the time the screenshots were taken. Thus a total of three hundred screenshots comprised the corpus of our data.

After gathering the data, we looked at three specific language descriptions in each screenshot. We analyzed each posting on a Likert scale under the following three categories: 1) Primarily Spanish Use--Primarily English Use; 2) Primarily Formal--Primarily Informal; and 3) Primarily Used Netspeak--Used No Netspeak. Each of these was given a score from 1 to 5. In the case of Primarily Spanish--Primarily English, a score of 1 meant the page was all in English and 5 meant it was all in Spanish. A score of 4 was given if in the screenshot there were one or two words in English; 3 was given if the language used in the screenshot was evenly divided between Spanish and English; 2 was given if the amount of English was greater than the amount of Spanish; 1 was assigned if all the writing was done in English.

As for the Primarily Formal--Primarily Informal category of analysis, the score of 5 was given if the language used in that screenshot was completely formal. In the context of this study, formal was when all the writing followed standard conventions of Puerto Rican Spanish and no slang or abbreviations were found. Thus, our use of "formal" is different from a formal register where a user would want to show additional respect. However, within the context of online writing, standard conventions for writing are on the formal end of the formal-informal binary if they do not break traditional rules of orthography and punctuation. This demonstrated that the users consciously kept their writing clear and their grammar was relatively error free. A score of 4 was given if a posting was mostly formal but had a few grammatical errors or abbreviations; 3 was given when the language of the page was evenly divided between informal and formal. The score of 2 was given when the majority of the page was informal, but there was still some formality in the language of the users; 1 was given when the language was completely informal because of an abundant amount of abbreviations, insults, or grammar errors that did not follow standard grammar.

The last aspect, which we focused on for each screenshot, was the use of netspeak. Crystal (2001) defines netspeak as a distinctive third medium of communication facilitated by computers and the Internet, where its current deviations from standard language are primarily in graphology and lexicon. Given the current constraints of the Internet, these are the easiest areas for innovation and change. In the context of this paper, netspeak looked at abbreviations such as q for the word que (what), emoticons such as smiley faces [??] or :), and general netspeak such as lol (laughing out loud) and Imao (laughing my ass off). We also looked at netspeak in Spanish such as dtb (dios te bendiga, "may God bless you") and cdt (cuidtate, "take care of yourself"). A score of 1 was given if there was no netspeak present; 2 where there were traces of netspeak, which usually happened when there was some sort of abbreviation in the language. A score of 3 was given if roughly half the users employed some type of netspeak in the screenshot; a score of 4 was reserved for instances in which a majority of users used at least one example of netspeak. A score of 5 was reserved for pages where all the users in the screenshot used netspeak.

In addition to examining the 300 screenshots for our three different categories, we assessed the administrators' postings apart from the postings made by visitors to the pages. This was done in order to examine authors of the various pages separately from those participating on the page, which allowed us to determine whether there was a marked difference between their use of language. We hypothesized that the page owners would be more formal in their writing and use less netspeak in order to appeal to a wider audience.

To compile all the data we created two Excel spreadsheets, which measured the same components for the different producers of language. After norming our coding process, we assigned a score to each screenshot and repeated the coding process a second time to ensure consistency. We analyzed each slide individually from the various LEAP2C categories, then created the results pages from each category and a final results page with averages from all the various categories and all the screenshots. After this process, using Excel, we calculated the scores and started the analysis of general themes in the data.

General Findings

After collecting and analyzing the 300 pages of screenshots, which were divided into six different page types, each with five different example pages, we gathered the results from each category of page. In this section we will highlight the most salient differences in each of the six categories, and in the next section we will discuss some of the overarching findings and provide text examples of each. A complete table of all of the results can be found in appendix 1.

The first area of analysis looked at the difference between Spanish and English use. Overall, it is apparent when analyzing the totals represented in Table 1 that the vast majority of the language employed by the users of these pages was in Spanish. Despite the overwhelming use of Spanish, it was also interesting that those who used English tended to be respondents to the page and not the actual authors of the particular page.

The largest discrepancy between the different language use patterns came in the use of formal and informal registers. The authors of the pages had an average score of 4.85, meaning that authors were writing formally, while respondents scored only 3.51 indicating less formality. This indicates that business owners or those who are in charge of marketing the Facebook accounts seem to understand the importance of using standard sentences and a more advanced lexicon, while normal users do not see this as important.

Carroll (2008) showed that Puerto Rican college-aged users of MySpace often used netspeak on the once popular social media site. Therefore, our third area of data analysis looked to quantify the use of netspeak on the pages analyzed. As can be seen in Table 1, while there was indeed netspeak present in many of the pages we analyzed, the pages overwhelmingly used language that was not netspeak. However, following the trend of formality, authors of the pages used almost no netspeak, logging a total average score of just 1.07, whereas the respondents tended to incorporate considerably more instances of netspeak at 1.74.

When we compared the various categories of pages to one another, what was most salient was the absence of English. While most of the page categories showed little English use by either authors or respondents, the categories for cause/community, arts/bands/public figures, and products/ brands were almost exclusively in Spanish, whereas the entertainment pages tallied an average score of 4.24 and 4.36 for authors and respondents' use of Spanish and English. The highest-scoring page to use English in the whole study was that of Magic FM, under the entertainment category. Magic 97.3FM is a popular radio station that plays 80s and 90s music from the US, so it is no surprise that their Facebook page had the most English used by the authors at 3.67 and 3.3 by the respondents, meaning that a maximum of 44 percent of the language used was in English.

Within the same category we also looked at another radio station targeted to an even younger audience, La Mega, which plays both Spanish and English songs and whose radio hosts frequently code-switch between both languages. However, when comparing Magic FM and La Mega, the authors of the pages for these two radio stations indeed more English than in other domains and pages, but respondents tended to overwhelmingly use Spanish.

With respect to the formality of postings on the pages we analyzed, the majority of authors decided to use a more formal or at least grammatically standard form of Spanish when posting on their pages. However, the respondents' formality ranged greatly. On pages where the target audience was thought to be for adults, such as many in the category of cause/community, pages scored an average of 3.68, which shows much more informal language use than the authors but also more formality than the total category for arts/ public figures, which had an average score of 2.96. The arts/public figures pages we chose were from two local politicians and three entertainers. Similar to the language used on the comments section of any newspaper page, these pages were riddled with insults and congratulatory praise that were often extremely informal.

While we hypothesized that our data would elicit various examples of netspeak, it simply was not the case. The pages and categories that had the most examples of netspeak fell under the arts/public figures category and often complemented the informal variety of language use among respondents on those pages. Perhaps this should not have come as such a surprise, since the public pages are open to anyone, but this finding is in direct contrast to Carroll's assertion (2008) that Puerto Rican netspeak is used widely among Puerto Ricans on Facebook.

Language Division

Examining our final LEAP2C data provided us with surprising results. The data from the Spanish-English section of our study documented that the Puerto Rican users of these public pages predominately use Spanish to communicate among each other. While Spanish is the overwhelming choice for communication, the little English use we did find was in response to users on a page who did not know Spanish. For example, there was one woman who asked in English on the Platano Loco page what a plantain is. Another Puerto Rican woman answered this question in English, but everyone else's response to the thread was in Spanish. The English portion of this page is quoted below:

User 1) Wow that looks good. Where from?

User 2) At Julia, this is in Puerto Rico.

User 1) What is it exactly?

User 2) Those are "shredded platano fried.

User 3) That looks gd.

User 1 is the non-Spanish user. This interchange between the three users was triggered by User 1's initial post in English. User 2 answered User 1's question, and then User 3 added a comment in English not specifically related to the previous interchange. In the case of this page, the analysis of all ten screenshots showed that this was the only excerpt that was primarily in English. In other words, the English text was essentially lost among the larger trend of posting in Spanish.

Another trend we noticed from the relatively small amount of English was that the majority of English used was constrained to one or two words. In the case of the Magic FM page, which had the most English use of all of the pages, most of the English use was one-word responses to a question the administrator had asked. For example, the administrator asked in Spanish, "Saludos mi gente, pregunto cual es esa cancion que te provoca bailar cuando la escuchas! (un solo titulo)" (Hello my people, what is the song that provokes you to dance when you hear it? [only one title]). To this question, the users responded with a number of English titles, such as the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive" and Air Supply "Now and Forever." This use of English does not guarantee that the user knows the meaning of the words, but it indicates that they do have a linguistic awareness of the title and group names along with the standard spelling of songs in English.

By looking further into English use in these pages, we found it interesting to see how local pages such as Yogen Fruz Aguadilla wrote some of their posts in English. The administrator of the page had a score of 3.8, which means that roughly 24 percent of the time the administrator was writing in English. For example, the administrator wrote, "Our morning craves fruit & yog parfaityum!! What does ur morning crave?" The responses to this post were in Spanish: the users replied "que rico" and "se los recomiendo son exquisitos!" ("How yummy" and "I recommend them, they are exquisite!").

This is an example of the users' response in Spanish even when the prompt was in English. The administrator's decision to occasionally post in English might be because Yogen Fruz is a Canadian frozen yogurt chain and the store was located next to the old military base on the west side of the island. They could also be getting packaged messages from the franchise to post as part of a marketing campaign, which suggests that English is the language that should be used for promotions. Even though these factors might influence the administrator's decision to post in English, the majority of the users on the page responded in Spanish 96 percent of the time. This was a familiar trend throughout the pages that were analyzed and further documents that Puerto Ricans are more likely to respond in Spanish even when the posts are in English.

Formal vs. Informal

From the pages that we have analyzed we have noticed two different tendencies in formal and informal use depending on who is writing on the page. When we analyzed the pages focusing strictly on administrators' postings, we found that the overwhelming majority of pages used formal language. Our total results from the 300 screenshots show that 97 percent of the time, the administrators used formal Spanish. On the other hand, respondents to these pages were more informal with their responses. Our total results from Table 1 show that 70 percent of the time, the users wrote using formal language. This is a 20 percent difference in formality when page administrators are compared to page respondents.

The pages that elicited the most nonstandard forms of communication were those of the respondents in the entertainment pages. An example of this is the page of Pina Records: "No Da Talla Con Los Artistas De La Formula :S La Voz De Lobo Es De Las Mejores" (It Can't Be Compared With The Artist Of The Formula :S The Voice Of The Wolf Is One Of The Best). The user here started each word using capital letters, and he also used an emoticon. Another example from the same page is "yo lo kiero waaa" (i want it waaaa). This example shows how the user changed the letter q for k, writing kiero instead of quiero (want), an abbreviated, phonemic representation of the word, which was common on the pages we analyzed. This particular change does not make the postings ungrammatical, but the change of spelling is definitely a marker of a nonstandard spelling variety. Similarly, the word que (what) was often abbreviated to simply "k" to mean the same thing. In addition to being used on Facebook, this abbreviation is often found in advertising campaigns that target youth. The examples here are taken from the Pina Records page, which is generally associated with young users because it is popular with followers of Reggaeton music, who tend to be a younger generation of Facebook users.

Even after having this decrease in formality, we can still see how the users wrote the majority of their writing using formal language. Our theory is that the users are conscious of the multiple generations of readers on each page. Unlike other social networking pages in the past such as MySpace that were used mostly by young people (Carroll 2008), Facebook has a much wider audience when age is concerned, and thus more traditional forms of language would be expected when older users, who might not understand the latest netspeak conventions, become frequent users of computer-mediated communication.


Crystal's definition of netspeak (2001) defines the term as a form of language that differs from traditional forms of communicating such as writing and speaking. Crystal highlights how the internet has taken away many aspects of traditional communication, such as facial expressions, tone, intonation, and other semiotic aspects of language and substituted them with unique functions of the internet world. Thus, as a person types to communicate, speed is also a factor, resulting in many localized abbreviations.

In this study we were surprised to see how little netspeak both administrators and respondents used. The small amount of netspeak that we did see was actually netspeak in Spanish. We were expecting a more abundant use of common nestpeak abbreviations such as lol (laugh out loud) and other typically used words derived from English netspeak. Instead we saw more Spanish netspeak or Puerto Rican netspeak. The words we observed the most were dtb (dios te bendiga, "God bless you") and tqm (te quiero mucho, "I love you").

It is also important to add that we considered emoticons to be netspeak. While there were indeed emoticons present, they were used sparingly. Crystal argues that the lack of use of emoticons might be because "'older' teenagers now seek to distance themselves from the use of emoticons, such as [??], in their texts, believing them to be childish" (2008, 22). Even though Facebook is not the same as texting, it is possible that users feel the same way about distancing themselves from new or younger users; or like so much in the ever-changing world of technology, the emoticon fad has run its course.


While the time that people spend on Facebook might be on the decline, people around the world and in Puerto Rico are still creating new accounts (Marks 2013). The adoption of Facebook by users of all ages means that those users are more representative of a given place or area, and thus the language they use will be more indicative of everyday language use. Facebook is thus a legitimate and viable way to use document authentic language use without contrived interviews or videotaping.

Furthermore, while Facebook potentially links users to the world through a common interface, the continued addition of users from all over the world coupled with Facebook's goal of growing their advertising arm have actually made the Facebook experience more local. By using your IP address along with your profile specifications and interests (and, increasingly, your browsing history), Facebook shows advertisements of products and companies that pay money to get their names and products out to a targeted audience. Thus, these advertising measures, along with increased security settings, seem to have made the ever-growing social media service more local.

As we analyzed Puerto Rican language use on Facebook, we were able to document that Spanish was indeed the language used among the majority of Puerto Ricans on the pages we analyzed. This is not surprising given the fact that Puerto Ricans overwhelming use Spanish in their daily lives outside of the Internet, but it does directly counter the legitimate perceptions of language threat triggered by Puerto Rico's colonial relationship with the United States (Carroll 2015), especially on the Internet.

Another interesting finding from this study was the use of more formal language than informal language. Throughout the Spanish-speaking world and especially in Puerto Rico, the use of informal language has been the impetus for language purists to start campaigns to purify the language (del Mar Quiles 2013). While our study did not focus specifically on the youngest generations of users who use most of the nonstandard language, our study does indeed document that Facebook as a whole is not the reason for the perceived deterioration of grammar and spelling. In fact, as Facebook has evolved, so too has users language. For example, shortly after its inception, Facebook limited users' status updates to 160 characters. Thus, similar to traditional text messaging or Twitter postings, the character limitations forced users to be creative to accurately portray their message in such little space. However, it has now been years since Facebook removed the 160-character limit, so now users are no longer forced to be as creative with constrained postings.

With additional space provided to post their status updates or in news feeds, Facebook users are no longer forced to be creative with their language use to fit their message into the limited space. Facebook also has a built in spell-checker. Before the incorporated spell-checker, it would have been more difficult and time consuming for a user to copy and paste a status update into spell-checking software. Therefore, we hypothesize that people simply did not do it. However, now the spell-checker and the red line under a misspelled word are reminders that you do not know how to spell and that the whole world, or at least your Facebook friends, will know after you post. So, because it is now easy and less time consuming, we believe that the incorporated spell-checker on Facebook could be one of the reasons for more standard use of Spanish on the pages we analyzed.

We also hypothesize that the incorporation of the spell-checker along with the removal of character limitations had an impact on use of netspeak among the Facebook pages we analyzed. While the use of netspeak could be used to maintain or distance oneself from older or newer users of the page, there is no longer a practical or time-saving incentive for using such language. We have seen this as well in the use of cellular phones, where those who have moved from traditional text messages and the 160-character limit to messaging systems like iMessage (Apple's messaging system) or the popular WhatsApp application (recently acquired by Facebook) no longer have these constraints. It will be interesting to see whether social media pages like Twitter will eventually follow Facebook in allowing more space for postings or whether they will continue with their limited character space for tweets.

Smartphones will increasingly have an impact on language use on Facebook as more and more users use Facebook exclusively from their mobile device (Sengupta 2012). According to Sengupta, "over half of Facebook's 901 million users access the site through mobile devices." With the growing use of mobile devices to access Facebook, the majority of users have to work with a device that oftentimes comes with an autocorrect function. Thus, when the autocorrect function is turned on, it becomes increasingly more difficult to use nonstandard varieties of language, including netspeak. Users, then, are more conscious of how they type to avoid the phone correcting their messages.

Some of the limitations we encountered when doing this research were the access to private pages, which limited our study exclusively to public pages. We have done our best to prove that the use of public pages can yield authentic language use data, especially when focusing on users' responses to page administrators. It should be noted that public pages are not representative of the private pages that all users of Facebook use on a daily basis. With that said, the small amount of netspeak and informal language made sense in that the target audience was largely unknown to page administrators. Examining private Facebook pages in a future study would allow for a point of comparison and could potentially uncover more use of netspeak and informal language use, given that the authors of private Facebook pages are generally close to those reading their pages.

Additionally, we refrained from doing inferential statistics on each construct and relied on our carefully detailed observations and coding procedures. With intercoder reliability above 90 percent, we are confident that the language use described above is accurate and representative of the pages used for analysis. Another suggestion for future research would be to use corpus linguistics software to run statistical analysis. This is more complicated with the range of informal and formal writing conventions along with the intermittent use of both Spanish and English. Nevertheless, adding statistical analysis to this type of research would be noteworthy.


Through the years, the island of Puerto Rico has undergone changes in its language policies, and the type of English education and the influences of the United States in Puerto Rico have changed the way people view and use English. While Carroll (2008) worked to document Puerto Rican language use on social media among 18 to 22 year olds, the present study used a larger data set among users of different age groups. Our data suggest that the language used on Facebook is very different from that reported in Carroll (2008). Even with the great exposure to English, Puerto Ricans have been successful in maintaining Spanish as the prominent language on Facebook. With this research we observed how through Facebook, Puerto Ricans work to actively maintain Spanish as their primary language of communication. We also saw how the users had the tendency to use more formal Spanish, in which their writing largely conformed to accepted spelling conventions. Furthermore, our data suggest that unlike Carroll's findings (2008), netspeak was used rather minimally, which we ascribe to previous character limitations that are no longer in place along with embedded spell-checkers and mobile autocorrect functions on cell phones. We conclude that research documenting language use on Facebook can be done without receiving human subjects' approval and that data can be collected systematically but that such methods, while time consuming for the researchers, can yield an accurate glimpse of authentic language use.

Table 2: Totals results: Entertainment


Name/Value       Sp.--Engl    Form.--Inform    Net All--Net 0

La Mega             4.25          4.875               1
Magic               3.67           4.33               1
PR Islander         4.44            5                 1
Imagen              4.43            5                 1
Pina Records        4.4            4.6                1

TOTAL               4.24           4.85               1


Name/Value       Sp.--Engl    Form.--Inform    Net All--Net 0

La Mega              5             4.43             1.43
Magic               3.3            3.2               2.2
PR Islander         4.5            3.5               1.4
Imagen             4.125           4.5              1.125
Pina Records        4.89           2.33             2.33

TOTAL               4.36           3.60             1.70

Table 3: Totals results: Arts and Public Figures


Name/Value         Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                   Engl     Inform      Net 0

Luis Raul           4.9      4.5         1.6
Gocho                5      4.875         1
Black Guayaba        5        5           1
Luis Fortuno         5        5           1
Garcia Padilla       5        5           1

TOTAL              4.98      4.88        1.12


Name/Value         Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                   Engl     Inform      Net 0

Luis Raul           4.8      3.2         2.4
Gocho               4.8      2.6         2.2
Black Guayaba       4.8      3.3         2.4
Luis Fortuno       4.77      4.77        2.11
Garcia Padilla      4.9      2.9         2.5

TOTAL              4.82      2.96        2.32

Table 4: Totals results: Products


Name/Value           Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                     Engl     Inform      Net 0

Betis                  5        5           1
Coco Rico             4.8      4.8         1.2
Avon                  4.9       5           1
Nestle Nutricion       5        5           1
Front Line PR          5        5           1

TOTAL                4.94      4.96        1.04


Name/Value           Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                     Engl     Inform      Net 0

Betis                  5      3.625       1.625
Coco Rico             4.9      2.9         2.1
Avon                   5       4.57        1.57
Nestle Nutricion      4.8      3.9         1.5
Front Line PR         4.7      3.2         1.9

TOTAL                4.88      3.64        1.74

Table 5: Totals results: Companies


Name/Value      Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                Engl     Inform      Net 0

Medalla         4.55       5           1
KFC              4.8       5          1.3
Walgreens       4.89       5           1
ATH             4.88       5           1
I-Shop           4.3       5           1

TOTAL           4.68       5          1.06


Name/Value      Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                Engl     Inform      Net 0

Medalla          4.3       3          1.9
KFC              3.9      3.4         1.4
Walgreens        4.7      4.5         1.1
ATH             4.33      3.33        1.66
I-Shop          4.44      3.78        1.11

TOTAL           4.33      3.60        1.44

Table 6: Totals results: Cause or Community


Name/Value            Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                      Engl     Inform      Net 0

Justicia Carmen         5        5           1
IVU Loto PR             5        5          1.44
Huellitas Desamp        5        5           1
Zoologico               5       4.6          1
Abuso AEE               5        5           1

TOTAL                   5       4.92        1.09


Name/Value            Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                      Engl     Inform      Net 0

Justicia Carmen         5       3.3         2.2
IVU Loto PR            4.8      3.3         1.7
Huellitas Desamp       4.7      3.7         1.3
Zoologico               5       3.9         1.8
Abuso AEE              4.7      4.2         1.1

TOTAL                 4.84      3.68        1.62

Table 7: Totals results: Local or place


Name/Value        Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                  Engl     Inform      Net 0

Don Frappe          5       4.33        1.56
Vaca Brava         4.9      4.5          1
Yogen Fruz         3.8      4.9          1
Platano Loco        5        5           1
Pet Value         4.88      4.25         1

TOTAL             4.72      4.60        1.11


Name/Value        Sp.--   Form.--    Net All--
                  Engl     Inform      Net 0

Don Frappe         4.5      2.6         2.1
Vaca Brava          5       3.63        1.38
Yogen Fruz         4.8      4.2         1.1
Platano Loco       4.2      3.9         1.8
Pet Value          4.9      3.7         1.9

TOTAL             4.68      3.61        1.66


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Kevin S. Carroll ( is an Associate Professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and has focused his research on language policy and planning efforts in the Caribbean as well as contemporary language use among Puerto Ricans.

Vanessa Z. Mari ( is a licensed English teacher and native Puerto Rican who is currently working as an Assistant Professor of TESOL at Nevada State College.
Table 1: Totals from all pages


           Sp.--Engl     Form.--Inform    Net All--Net 0

TOTAL         4.76           4.85              1.07


           Sp.--Engl    Form.--Inform     Net All--Net 0

TOTAL         4.65           3.51              1.74
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Author:Carroll, Kevin S.; Mari, Vanessa Z.
Publication:CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1U0PR
Date:Jun 22, 2017
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