SAM Seminar: Searchable talk: The linguistic functions of hashtags

When:26 May 2015, 5pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Robert Webster Building, Room 327
Who:Michele Zappavigna, UNSW Australia

The drive to make our discourse readily findable by others has become a prominent social process, realised by a range of online communicative practices associated with social media. A key semiotic resource integral to microblogging is the hashtag, a form of social tagging that allows microbloggers to embed metadata in posts. This ‘conversational tagging’ (Huang, Hornton, & Efthimiadis, 2010) supports forms of ambient communion that arise out of the ability to find what other people are talking about in quasi-‘real-time’. While popularly thought of as topic-markers, hashtags are able to construe a range of complex meanings in social media texts. This paper uses Halliday’s (1978) concept of linguistic metafunctions, to explore how hashtags enact three simultaneous communicative functions: marking experiential topics, enacting interpersonal relationships, and organizing text. Corpus-based discourse analysis of patterns in a specialized hashtag corpus, as well as a 100 million word Twitter corpus, is used to investigate these linguistic functions and how they enact social processes of ‘ambient affiliation’ (Zappavigna, 2011, 2012).

Michele Zappavigna is a lecturer in the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. Her major research interest is the discourse of social media and she has published two books in this area: Discourse of Twitter and Social Media (Continuum, 2012) and, Researching the Language of Social Media (Routledge, 2014) with Ruth Page, Johann Unger and David Barton. Her work also engages with the practical concerns of applied and forensic linguistics. Key publications with this focus include, Tacit Knowledge and Spoken Discourse (Bloomsbury, 2013), and Discourse and Diversionary Justice: An Analysis of Ceremonial Redress in Youth Justice Conferencing (Palgrave, forthcoming) with JR Martin and Paul Dwyer. Other areas of interest include text visualization and multimodal discourse analysis.

SAM Seminar Series 2015
Convenor, Collin Chua –

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