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Lecture | Sociolinguistics series

Graphic cues in digital discourse: cross-linguistic evidence for variation in interaction-oriented writing

Friday 9 December 2022
LUCL Sociolinguistics Series 2022/2023
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


This presentation discusses findings from my current research on German and Greek data from Reddit, a social media platform organized into discussion boards. Reddit participants across languages draw on a number of graphic devices to accomplish contextualization work (Gumperz 1982), i.e. index a contextual framing in which their utterances be understood. These graphic cues, in part documented in the research literature, include ‘emphatics caps’, letter repetition, expressive punctuation, the ‘indignation mark’ <!!1!>, and various means of indexing sarcasm (Mc Culloch 2019, Darics 2020, Androutsopoulos 2023). I present cross-linguistic evidence for the frequency and use of some of these features, focusing on previously undocumented ones, and discuss implications of these findings for theory-building in digital sociolinguistics. The multitude of graphic cues and similarities in usage across German and Greek data lead me to hypothesize an evolutionary process, by which registers of graphic cues in digital discourse gain in complexity. I propose the term ‘graphic prosody’ to capture this development and discuss implications of my cross-linguistic findings regarding (a) the constraints posed by orthographic systems to the emergence of graphic cues, (b) the recontextualization of spelling variation for pragmatic work in interaction-oriented digital writing, and (c) the global/local dynamics of graphic features across languages and scripts.

  • Androutsopoulos, J. (forthcoming/2023) Punctuating the other: graphic cues, voice, and positioning in digital discourse. Accepted, Language and Communication.
  • Darics, E. (2020) E-Leadership or ‘How to Be Boss in Instant Messaging?’ The Role of Nonverbal Communication. International Journal of Business Communication 57/1: 3–29.
  • Gumperz, J.J. (1982) Discourse strategies. Cambridge. CUP.
  • Mc Culloch, G. (2019) Because Internet. Understanding how language is changing. London: Vintage.

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