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Adding letters to words: Why people text liiiiike thiiiiis

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 9:13 p.m. MDT

Linguist Michael Erard explained to The Atlantic that people may duplicate letters in an effort to compensate for the lack of vocal cues when they're writing as opposed to speaking. (Shutterstock) Linguist Michael Erard explained to The Atlantic that people may duplicate letters in an effort to compensate for the lack of vocal cues when they're writing as opposed to speaking. (Shutterstock)

If you haven't sent a text or an email with letters repeated for emphasis -- "hiiiiiiiiii," "oh nooooooooo," and "wait whaaaaaaat?" all come to mind -- then, odds are, you've received one at some point.

"Word lengthening," achieved by reduplicating letters in texts, instant messages and emails, is a growing phenomenon, The Atlantic reports. And, as was the case with several other linguistic trends, including the ubiquity of the word "like" and that creaky-sounding "vocal fry" register in speech, young women are responsible for bringing it to the rest of the population. (You're welcome!)

Linguist Michael Erard explained to The Atlantic that people may duplicate letters in an effort to compensate for the lack of vocal cues when they're writing as opposed to speaking.

“When people talk, they use intonation in a number of varied and subtle ways,” Erard told The Atlantic. “There’s a lot of emotional nuance that can be conveyed that you can’t do in writing.”

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