This paper investigates the occurrence of regional dialects in Italian Computer-mediated communication (CMC). Our analysis of sites, chat sessions and forums reveals that dialects are associated with at least three distinct contexts of use. First, dialects are an object of study, for instance in web sites dedicated to safeguarding or spreading knowledge of dialects. Secondly, dialects in CMC can be used as the ‘official’ language for communicate. Thirdly, dialects may occur in chat sessions conducted predominantly in Italian as a secondary language which emerges by chance in discourse, giving rise to phenomena of code-switching, as in spoken language. Analysis of these three situations enables us to evaluate the vitality of dialects on the Web, distinguishing between ‘conventional’ and ‘natural’ uses. Regarding the status of CMC as communication more or less oriented towards speech, a ‘natural’ presence of dialects can be taken as further proof of the tendency to be more oriented towards speech.
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