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Title: Sociolinguistic variation and enregisterment in an online community of practice : a case study of
Author: Witten, Kimberly Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 9212
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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With the emergence of communities that are primarily based in computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments, we see the prevalence of internet-derived neologisms, i.e., netologisms. Often these netologisms are acronyms (e.g., ‘LOL’), blends (e.g., ‘weblog’), or other forms of abbreviation. These new forms may present challenges for English phonotactics, which must be spontaneously resolved by first-time speakers of the netologisms. If the forms contain orthographic characters or sequences that do not directly or consistently correlate to specific English phonemes or phoneme sequences, it is likely that these new forms display phonetic variation. Netologisms can also be used as linguistic resources in taking stances or asserting aspects of identity, especially where phonetic variation is possible. These stances may represent the identity of the group, or they may become associated with particular identities within the group. The process by which sounds, features and word forms become associated with particular identities is known as enregisterment (Agha, 2003, 2005; Squires, 2010). Enregisterment has traditionally been studied in sociolinguistics as a function of individuals interacting in face-to-face (FtF) environments (Johnstone, Andrus and Danielson, 2006; Beal, 2009). However, as more of our daily interactions are mediated by computers and technology, attention must be paid to how enregisterment may take place in primarily text-based social environments. This research presents the first large-scale mixed-methods study of enregisterment occurring in CMC. The varying pronunciations of two netologisms — the community’s nickname (‘MeFi’, from and the collective nickname for its participants (‘MeFites’) — are naturally-occurring sociolinguistic variables that showcase the ongoing negotiation of community conventions and the development of group identity. An exploration of this kind adds an important piece to our broader understanding of linguistic interaction in CMC, while also exhibiting one of the many new directions of sociolinguistic research today.
Supervisor: Carmen, Llamas ; Dominic, Watt Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available