Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English
Volume 15

Texts and Discourses of New Media

Edited by Jukka Tyrkkö, University of Tampere, and Sirpa Leppänen, University of Jyväskylä

Publication date: 2014


Kytölä, Samu
Polylingual language use, framing and entextualization in digital discourse: Pseudonyms and ‘Signatures’ on two Finnish online football forums

This article addresses two interrelated layers of polylingual (Jørgensen 2008; Jørgensen et al. 2011) language use in a ‘framing position’ (Androutsopoulos 2012) identified in two leading Finland-based online football forums. The first of them is forum members’ self-appointed pseudonyms (‘nicks’), while the second is the affordance of optional ‘Signatures’ (‘sigs’) that can be made conspicuous below messages posted by a forum member. The study involves tentative categorization and quantitative analyses of the visibility and positions of different languages and varieties in these ‘framing’ subspaces and selective discourse-analytic, interpretative ‘excursions’ behind those polylingual items, highlighting the processes of entextualization (Bauman & Briggs 1990) in the circulation of text in digital discourse contexts. Moreover, I briefly outline principles for the ethical consideration of research into public or semi-public online forum member profiles.

Landert, Daniela
Blurring the boundaries of mass media communication? Interaction and user-generated content on online news sites

This study investigates the communicative setting of one form of online mass media communication, namely online news sites published by professional news organisations. Such sites provide options for audience interaction that go far beyond what was possible in earlier forms. One of the questions this raises concerns the extent to which this might contribute to a blurring of boundaries between 1) mass and interpersonal communication, 2) editorial content and user-generated content, and 3) the roles of journalists and readers. In order to approach these questions, I develop a model for the communicative situation on online news sites which makes it possible to explore these boundaries. Data from five British online news sites show that mass communication and user interaction are combined in various ways on these platforms, without making it necessary to give up the distinction between mass and interpersonal communication. Concerning user-generated content, the news sites show marked differences as to how clearly they differentiate it from editorial content. For the role of readers this means that they can turn into sources for journalistic news writing. The last part of the study contextualises these findings by adopting a diachronic view on the development of interactive forms on news sites, relating them to earlier reader feedback in print newspapers and looking at some of the most recent trends with respect to the integration of social media.

Sairio, Anni
‘No other reviews, no purchase, no wish list’: Book reviews and community norms on

This article presents a discourse-analytical case study of a book review and the responses it has attracted on in order to explore aspects of trust and group norms in this experience-sharing, trust-based commercial online community. The reception of this highly ranked review suggests that there are contrasting norms at work: some commenters emphasize the use of standard language as a measure of quality and look to the reviewer’s activity as a measure of trust, while others consider a reader’s subjective contribution of their reading experience to be the key element. User regulations of direct members to operate primarily on the basis of identity-based attachments, but reviewing activities themselves seem to reflect both identity-based and bond-based attachments to the community. The participants’ disagreement with regard to norms and ideal practices perhaps mark the reviewing community to be in the early stages of community development (see Wenger et al. 2002).

Hiltunen, Turo
Choice of national variety in the English-language Wikipedia

The English-language Wikipedia has been widely used in computational linguistic studies, but there is less corpus-based work on the language of Wikipedia from a variationist perspective. This article investigates whether Wikipedia articles follow American English or British English usage norms to a different degree, and to what extent this depends on their subject matter. The data for this study comes from Westbury Lab Wikipedia Corpus (2010). The results indicate that Wikipedia articles in general favour American English usage norms, which reflects the large number of contributing editors based in the US. On the other hand, British English holds its own in articles with ties to the UK, which exhibit a higher incidence of spellings and grammatical forms associated with that variety.

Harris, Kathleen and Turo Hiltunen
“It’s you’re, not your”: Exploring misspelled words in YouTube comments

The Internet is currently causing changes in how people use language, and computer-mediated communication (CMC) has therefore become an interesting source of data for the analysis of language attitudes and language change. This study uses CMC data to investigate the use of stigmatized nonstandard linguistic variants, namely the possessive your being used instead of the standard contraction you’re. Our data come from online comment sections of two popular content-sharing websites, YouTube and 9GAG, which have different characteristics as far as user demographics and anonymity are concerned. Our analysis shows that nonstandard your is particularly frequent in YouTube comments, whereas its prevalence in 9GAG is much lower. While the use of non-standard your is potentially influenced by a number of factors, our analysis suggests that its high relative frequency in YouTube comments is motivated by the anonymity allowed by the website, as well as the perceived identity of its contributors.

Halmari, Helena
Ethnic identity and variation in codeswitching patterns

Bilingual codeswitching (the interplay of two or more languages in the bilingual speaker’s speech repertoire) can reveal interesting underlying issues of ethnic identity. 467 electronic-mail messages written by three Finnish-English bilingual siblings have been analyzed to detect any variation in codeswitching patterns. The results indicate that, despite the same family background, there is measurable variation not only in the quantity of codeswitching in the e-mails and the relative amounts of English vs. Finnish, but also variation in the manner in which English elements are incorporated into the matrix Finnish text. The oldest research participant resorts to orthographic integration of English words to reflect both Finnish orthographic and phonotactic rules. This ‘orthographic Finnish accent’ is interpreted as an indication of this speaker’s strong Finnish identity and perhaps an implicit reminder to the others that a shift to English in family-internal correspondence is not desirable or ‘authentic.’

McVeigh, Joe
Apples and oranges: A comparative analysis of blogs and marketing texts which share an audience

Although the genres of blogs and marketing have been studied, the sub-genres of monotopical blogs and email marketing have not received as much attention by scholars. An account of the ways that these sub-genres use language to meet their goals is needed to see whether they follow similar patterns of the larger genres that contain them. Since marketing has been seen as a dynamic genre that liberally borrows linguistic and rhetorical structures from other genres, a comparative analysis of marketing and blogging will show just how close these two genres really are. A close look at two similar sub-genres within marketing and blogging will also help define the expansive genres of which they are a part.

This article analyzes the linguistic properties of blog texts and marketing texts which share a topic and discourse community. That is, all of the texts analyzed are about labor and employment law in the United States and all of them are directed at lawyers. The only difference between them is that they have different goals depending on which genre they come from. For the blog texts, the goal is exposition, while the marketing texts are promotional. Drawing on previous corpus linguistics research, I wish to answer two related questions. First, I want to know how the two sub-genres differ in terms of their linguistic properties. Second, I want to see whether a comparison of the texts from the two sub-genres is really possible or whether it would be just like comparing apples to oranges.

Corpus linguistic methods are used to compare the lexico-grammatical properties of the texts from the two sub-genres at large. An analysis is then made of the texts which share the same micro-topic in labor and employment law (in this case, discrimination at the work place). The results show that texts from monotopical blogs and email marketing do not always divide easily based on either their genres or expectations from previous research.

Green, Johanna M. E.
‘On þe nis bute chatering’
Cyberpragmatics and the paratextual ‘anatomy’ of Twitter

Our experiences of written text are always mediated. This article considers the mediation of the written word on Twitter, both via the vehicle through which it is communicated (a Tweet) and the author who creates its text. Using Bonnie Mak’s definition of the page, and her analysis of the digital page as cultural artefact (2011), combined with Genette’s concept of paratext (1997), this article offers what Peter Barry (2007) terms a ‘context-saturated’ approach to Twitter: it considers the anatomy of Twitter as a new digital page, and provides a suggested analysis of the paratextual mechanisms employed therein, arguing these are a) central to mediating our reading practices of that digital page and b) more firmly rooted in the past that we might expect. In so doing, it contributes to an emerging discussion of the digital page as worthy of analysis, similar to the manuscript or printed book.

Jousmäki, Henna
This is us: Multimodal online self-representation of Christian metal bands

In today’s imagocentric world, increasing attention is paid to the visual aspects of communication (Stocchetti & Sumiala-Seppänen 2007: 10). This also shows on how Christian metal (CM) bands feature in online media. Theoretically anchored in the emerging field of sociology of language and religion (Fishman 2006; Omoniyi 2010), this paper studies the ways CM bands represent themselves in online media, such as band homepages, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter, which provide them with a market place for self-promotion. The analysis seeks to understand how the bands’ subcultural performance, with a particular reference to their uses of emblems, helps them to connect Christianity with metal music culture-an incoherent and contradictory fusion for many.

Peuronen, Saija
Identifications through multimodal design: An analysis of the mediated performance of Christian lifestyle sports in online video

Producing videos and posting them online are important activities for many young people who engage in lifestyle sports, such as snowboarding and skateboarding (see e.g. Jones 2011). As part of a sociolinguistic and ethnographic research project that investigates linguistic, semiotic and discursive practices by the members of Christian snowboarders in Finland, this paper focuses on online videos produced by the participants in this particular youth community. I analyze how the multimodal design of the videos contributes to the construction of various identifications with both religion and lifestyle sports. Specifically, the analysis illustrates how the Christian snowboarders’ online videos function as mediated and mediatized performances. By making use of multimodal resources (such as music, image, gesture as well as aspects of framing and shot), the community members are able to construct specific narratives of their Christian journey. Furthermore, the videos serve to achieve the goals of their community: the video-making practices enable the Christian boarders to emphasize their sense of a shared community, invite other people interested in (snow)boarding to participate in their activities, and spread the Gospel to outsiders of the community. In this way, digital media can be strategically used and adapted for identificational and communicative purposes in youth communities.

Häkkinen, Ari and Sirpa Leppänen
YouTube meme warriors: Mashup videos as political critique

This article focuses on mediated and playful voices of criticism by looking at two mashup videos on YouTube, both of which ridicule the people in power who claim to represent ‘the people’. While mashup videos can be seen as entertainment, they can also function as a medium for political critique via parodic and satirical deconstruction. Today mashups are an increasingly popular social media practice, as they get watched, commented on, circulated, and remediated at best to a viral and memic extent. And where, for instance, state censorship is tight, mashups have become a relatively safe route for voicing political critique. Especially satirical mashups engage in meme war and aim at disarming and reshifting of established political conceptualizations, wordings, and rhetoric. They challenge the regimes of truth: types of discourses accepted and naturalized as true by a particular social constellation. In these ways, mashups can create opportunities for contributions to a stronger and healthier participatory democracy.