[New publication] Internet Pragmatics: Vol. 1:1, 2018

Introducing internet pragmatics

Chaoqun Xie and Francisco Yus

The internet and internet-mediated life have presented new issues and challenges for research on pragmatics. When analysing the application of pragmatics to internet-mediated communication, a possibility is to set up a number of layers and study the contributions that traditional pragmatic schools can make to this new research area. These layers include, but are not limited to, user and contextual constraints, user to user by means of discourse, user to user in interaction, user to audience, user in a group of users and, user and non-intended no-propositional effects. Research on internet pragmatics, it is believed, can, should and will extend and expand the scope of pragmatics. Ultimately, internet pragmatics, capturing and elucidating the order of things and the order of life more extensively, deeply and fully, seeks to explore and expound, from the perspective of pragmatics, ways of living, ways of doing, ways of seeing, and ways of (re)discovering.

Keywords: internet pragmatics, contextual constraints, non-intended no-propositional effects, internet-mediated interaction, order of things, ways of seeing, taken-for-grantedness

How social is the internet? A pragmatic view

Jacob L. Mey

To many, the collocation of the terms ‘internet’ and ‘social’ may seem a bit strange, even contradictory. Either the internet is by definition social, or it is, by observation and intuition, a rather anti-social affair. The article tries to dispel this ambiguity of attribution, by focusing on both positive and negative aspects of internet practices, as we see them developing among its (often younger) users. A new vision of sociality is attributed mainly to the rise of the internet, and the consequences of a ‘fake’ social life are examined. Adaptation, both to the user and the soft/and hardware is seen as a key term in this respect, and some ethical and moral problems related to internet use are discussed with the aid of some actual cases. Finally, a general evaluation of the internet in both its positive and negative aspects is provided.

Keywords: internet, sociality, adaptation, ethics, ‘fake’ life, avatar, embodiment

“Our Chief Political editor reads between the lines of the Chancellor’s Budget speech”: The strategic exploitation of conversational implicature in mediated political discourse

Anita Fetzer

This paper examines the multilayeredness of computer-mediated political discourse, focussing on the interdependencies between the contextual constraints and requirements of the medium on the one hand, and contextualisation, indexicality of communicative action and conversational implicature on the other. Particular attention is given to implicit and entextualised references to differences between what is said and what is meant in the communicative act of follow-up, to the importation of context and provision of background information, to their function with respect to the interactional organisation of (non)credibility and argumentative (non)coherence, and to the co-construction of discourse common ground. Within the context of computer-mediated political discourse, these references are used strategically to accommodate the contextual constraints and requirements of a multilayered reception format and their multilayered felicity conditions, and to support speaker-intended interpretation of multilayered discourse on the production side.

Keywords: conversational implicature, speaker-intended meaning, context, contextualisation, political discourse, discourse common ground, follow-up

Crooked Hillary and Dumb Trump: The strategic use and effect of negative evaluations in US election campaign tweets

Christian R. Hoffmann

While there is extensive research on the language of twitter, our knowledge of the pragmatics of particular twitter genres (and sub-genres) is still piecemeal. At the same time, in the past decades, political discourse analysis has widened our understanding of how language can be used instrumentally to alter or manipulate public interaction, meanings and opinions. However, it has seldom examined the evaluative load of political communication in much detail. To this end, the paper, on the one hand, serves to illuminate the pragmatics of political tweets as a twitter genre. On the other hand, the study brings to the fore the strategic use of negative evaluations in political online campaigning and discusses its potential (and actual) socio-political ramifications. The quantitative and qualitative analysis of negative evaluations largely draws on Martin and White’s Appraisal framework (2005), and is based a compatible study by Cabrejas-Peñuelas and Díez-Prados (2014), I track down, classify and categorize the negative evaluations of a subset of twitter posts by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a self-compiled corpus of 1965 tweets, with a view to evaluation types, their relative frequencies and dispersion across the corpus, as well as objects and targets of evaluation. The quantitative analysis is then completed by a qualitative examination of the objects and targets of evaluations in both twitter profiles as well as a closer look at the recurrent language used to evaluate the political “other”. The results show that Trump makes more flexible (and strategic) use of negative evaluations (both in terms of types, frequency and distribution), while Clinton’s negative evaluations are less frequent, less diverse and, thus possibly, less convincing.

Keywords: Twitter, political discourse analysis, evaluation, corpus pragmatics, Appraisal Theory

Tracking opinion convergence online: The effect of facial attractiveness

Marina Terkourafi and Sarah Lord

We investigate whether facial attractiveness, as one source of positive/negative attitudes towards one’s conversational partner, affects the degree and type of opinion convergence online, even in the absence of physical co-presence. Our hypothesis is that when you interact with someone you find attractive, opinion convergence will occur even if you are not physically co-present with them. Additionally, we tracked different types of opinion convergence (one-sided or mutual) and how convergence is linguistically negotiated in these different circumstances. Our hypothesis was confirmed, to a point. Opinion convergence was most frequent among Attracted pairs; however, opinion convergence was greatest among Neutral pairs. Opinion convergence was qualitatively different in the 3 conditions. This research adds to previous studies which highlighted aspects of communication unique to online environments (anonymity, invisibility) to explain the heightened tendency for face-threatening behaviours to occur online, by showing how implicit biases (operationalized here as facial attractiveness) can be an additional factor influencing online behaviour.

Keywords: anonymity, implicit bias, facial attractiveness, opinion convergence

Identity-related issues in meme communication

Francisco Yus | University of Alicante

Internet memes are an example of the trend of replicability and spread of discourses through the Net within today’s participatory culture. On paper, memes are instances of humorous discourse that abound on the internet, are replicated or altered, and then transmitted to other users. However, in this paper the focus is not on its humorous side, but on how every single stage of meme communication entails a greater or lesser impact on the user’s self-concept, self-awareness and overall identity. The paper addresses five stages of meme communication and possible ways in which these stages influence the user’s identity.

Keywords: memes, meme communication, image macros, online identity, cyberpragmatics

Relational work in multimodal networked interactions on Facebook

Patricia Bou-Franch and Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich

The paper argues that the notion of Relational Work (Locher and Watts 2005) needs to be expanded to be able to account for sociability in the networked interactions afforded by social platforms such as Facebook. Thus, the aim of this paper is to explore how the nature of networked interactions impacts the emergence of relational practices therein. Importantly, Relational Work is a language based framework whereas networked interactions are highly multimodal. By applying Norris’s (2004) multimodal framework to the analysis of a Facebook wall event, we show how key sociability functions are carried out by semiotic modes other than language. Furthermore, the analysis shows how relational behaviors (such as politeness, impoliteness, etc.) are highly intertwined and should not be compartmentalized, as has traditionally been the case.

Keywords: networked interactions, Facebook, relational Work, multimodality, im/politeness

Commenting on in-memoriam columns: Juggling with deliberative and epidictic norms

Elda Weizman and Bar-Ilan University

The discussion proposes to shed light on a hitherto non-researched area: commenting on in-memoriam columns. Borrowing the basic notions of deliberative and epidictic genres from classical rhetoric and accommodating them to a pragmatic study of online interaction between commenters and columnists, readers’ comments are conceived as follow-ups, which necessarily re-contextualize the initiating column. The mixed character of the initiating columns, which combine deliberative and epidictic features, encourages the commenters to choose between different readings of the columns in context, and exercise their discursive power in re-contextualizing the commenting/column interaction. The analysis suggests that in the data discussed here, commenters manifest clear preference for the epidictic. By so doing, they depart from norms of deliberation manifest in habitual political commenting. On a more general level, the analysis supports the initial claim, namely that by choosing between different readings of the initiating columns and following-up on them, commenters have the discursive power to shape and re-shape the interaction through preferred commenting strategies.

Keywords: online commenting, genres, deliberative, epidictic, follow-ups

Self-praise online and offline The hallmark speech act of social media?

Daria Dayter

In contrast to the assumptions of the linguistic research on face-to-face interaction, CMC studies have shown that self-promotion is acceptable and even desired in certain online contexts. However, investigations of self-praise online repeatedly refer to the specific features of internet environment or internet communities that cause a temporary suspension of the constraint against self-praise. The constraint itself is treated as somewhat of an axiom. The assumption is, therefore, that the speech act of self-praise is face-threatening and disruptive and can only occur when certain conditions prevail, for example, when a disclaimer #humblebrag is provided. In the present study, I look at self-praise in private, one-on-one WhatsApp chats. Until now, self-praise has been investigated in broadcasting contexts of Twitter and Instagram. On the basis of the existing description of these naturally occurring episodes of self-praise, a retrieval strategy is developed to identify self-praise in a corpus through queries for collocations of lexical markers. An analysis of the episodes of self-praise retrieved from the WhatsApp corpus and some preliminary results from the corpus of spoken American English supports the tentative hypothesis that self-praise is an unmarked speech behaviour that is a part of an everyday speech act repertoire. The existing claim about its special status could be explained through a combination of intuitive assumptions carried over from the influential studies of the pre-corpus era, and the retrieval methods that targeted the modified self-praise.

Keywords: self-praise, self-enhancement, self-presentation, speech acts, bragging, computer-mediated communication, WhatsApp