Named and framed: linguists in news stories about the German language
Jannis Androutsopoulos, Universität Hamburg
I discuss conditions of quotability and media presence for linguists, mainly drawing on news stories on ethnolectal German (Kiezdeutsch, Kanaksprak) and including my own experiences in this field. Being quoted in the media is an increasingly desirable good for academics, though it comes with a price: that of having one’s voice, and occasionally one’s body, recontextualized by the journalist who writes the news story. Journalists frame the academic voice at various levels of the news story, including the constraints of particular media genres (e.g. semiotic affordances, available time), the pre-construction of the interview encounter in terms of preparatory questions, the selection of headlines and/or press images (which takes place after the authorization of copy text by those quoted) and the multimodal staging of the linguist in broadcast features. Since most of these framing devices are beyond our control, I suggest to think of the encounter between academics and journalists as a reversal of the familiar relationship between researcher and data, our utterances becoming data that journalists (must) recontextualize in their story, thereby following discourse-formation rules of their field such as an orientation to assumed language-ideological structures by the imagined audience and the imperative to present stories about soft themes, such as language, in an entertaining manner. On a broader plane, these practices can be thought of as part of mediatization of science in late-modern societies, a shift indicated by three tendencies in media reporting (Schäfer 2008): extensification (i.e. increase in the amount of news stories on scientific topics), pluralisation (these stories citing not only academic researchers but actors from other fields who bring alternative interpretations into the discourse), and polarisation (with academic authority eventually becoming relative). Media stories on German not just conform to this pattern, but occasionally take pluralisation and polarisation so far as to undermine academic perspectives on language (Androutsopoulos 2015). The reasons for this, I suggest, must be sought in the social meaning of the German language as an icon of German nationhood.
Androutsopoulos, J. (2015) Hybridisierung im medialisierten Metasprachdiskurs: das Beispiel „Kiezdeutsch“. In: S. Hauser / M. Luginbühl (Hgg.) Hybridisierung und Ausdifferenzierung. Kontrastive Perspektiven linguistischer Medienanalyse, 207–234. Bern: Peter Lang.
Schäfer, M. S. (2008) Medialisierung der Wissenschaft? Empirische Untersuchung eines wissenschaftssoziologischen Konzepts. Zeitschrift für Soziologie 37/3, 206–225.
The formatting of life: Ellliot Rodger's online-offline world of masculine victimhood
Jan Blommaert, Tilburg University
In 2014, a young man from Beverly Hills called Elliot Rodger drove to the UCSB campus in Isla Vista and killed several of his co-students there, before taking his own life.Prior to this act, Rodger posted a long autobiographical "manifesto" online, as well as several YouTube videos in which he explained his act as an act of revenge against women who refused to date him, and "stupid" men who had walked into the traps of such women. The manifesto provides us with some rare insights into the communicative universe of a mass murderer, and can assist us in understanding a logic of action in which constructed victimhood leads to performed crime. From the manifesto, we learn that Rodger was an avid MMOG player (World of Warcraft), was deeply engaged in dystopian violent popular culture consumption, had acquired skills characterizing the Hollywood movie incrowd, and had been a regular visitor of online misogynist platforms commonly known as the "Manosphere". In fact, the public and media outcry of the Isla Vista killings brought the Manosphere in full daylight. We can show, on the basis of an examination of Rodger's manifesto, how the online-offline popular culture in which he moved (including the Manosphere) provided Rodger with several clear templates formatting his feelings of frustration, the possible lines of response actions, and a knowledge format shaping a specific persona and enabling the ultimate role reversal from victim to perpetrator. Further than that, Rodger himself became an online icon in the Manosphere, formatting, in turn, the logic of action of others. The relevance of a case such as that of Rodger is that it shows us how "light" communities in a profoundly fragmented online universe can still operate as strong motivators for identity and social action.
The Public Life of White Affects
Mary Bucholtz, University of California, Santa Barbara
In recent decades the growing political power of racialized groups has unsettled the hegemonic position of whiteness, leading to the linguistic repositioning of whiteness—as visible and vulnerable rather than unmarked and dominant—as a strategy for maintaining racial privilege. In U.S. public discourse, those who are white-identified enact this ideological visibility and vulnerability through affective performances that reinscribe white supremacy (cf. Ioanide 2015). Building on recent anthropological theorizing of affects as racialized (Berg & Ramos-Zayas 2015), The analysis compares the discursive strategies of white affects found in high-profile mediatized incidents involving the racist far right on the one hand and ethnographic research on white youth in educational spaces on the other. Three such strategies are examined: colormute racism, the disavowal of racism, and the discursive appropriation of the positionality of racialized groups. As the analysis demonstrates, although many white Americans claim to reject militant racism (Hill 2008; Hodges 2016; Rosa & Bonilla 2017), the same affective ideologies are evident in the forms of mainstream racism articulated and enacted in everyday discourse in white public space (cf. Bucholtz 2011; Hill 1999). Examining affective performances through a linguistic-anthropological lens reveals that, rather than being private and individual psychic states, affects are fundamentally interactional and sociopolitical resources for constituting selves and others in public life (Ahmed 2004; Butler 2004; McElhinny 2010).
Ahmed, Sara. 2004. The cultural politics of emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Berg, Ulla D., and Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas. 2015. Racializing affect: A theoretical proposition. Current Anthropology 56(5):654-677.
Bucholtz, Mary. 2011. White kids: Language, race, and styles of youth identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Butler, Judith. 2004. Precarious life: The powers of mourning and violence. London: Verso.
Hill, Jane H. 1999. Language, race, and white public space. American Anthropologist 100(3):680-89.
Hill, Jane H.. 2008. The everyday language of white racism. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Hodges, Adam. 2016. Accusatory and exculpatory moves in the hunting for “racists” language game. Language and Communication 47:1-14.
Ioanide, Paula. 2015. The emotional politics of racism: How feelings trump facts in an era of colorblindness. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
McElhinny, Bonnie. 2010. The audacity of affect: Gender, race, and history in linguistic accounts of legitiimacy and belonging. Annual Review of Anthropology 39:309-328.
Rosa, Jonathan, and Yarimar Bonilla. 2017. Deprovincializing Trump, decolonizing diversity, and unsettling anthropology. American Ethnologist 44(2):201-208.
How Linguistics Gets Lost in Public Debates About Language
Anne Curzan, University of Michigan
Linguists lament that people of all education levels often seem more inclined to listen to self-proclaimed prescriptive language experts like William Safire, Lynne Truss, and William Strunk and E. B. White, than to linguists. When it comes to physics, people turn to physicists as the experts to consult on the topic; when it comes to language, people often turn to experts without training in linguistics. How, then, can those with linguistics expertise effectively intervene in a public discourse where nonstandard varieties are still regularly denigrated and standard varieties are referred to as “good English” or just “English”? As we have debates about, for example, “political correctness” and “PC language,” how can linguists help unpack all the issues that are being debated under the guise of language?
This talk, focused on the U.S. context, considers the ideologies that linguists and non-linguists share and don’t share about standard and nonstandard varieties, “grammar,” the role of intention in language use, and prescriptive rules about what constitutes “good usage.” I tease apart different strands of prescriptivism in order to better map potential shared conversational ground and evaluate different strategies for addressing misunderstandings and misinformation about language variation and change. I assess language linguists have used to talk about prescriptivism with non-experts (e.g., that prescriptive rules are “arbitrary”) and analyze the language of public responses to descriptivist arguments (e.g., that linguists are hypocrites because they follow formal conventions in their own published writing). I cannot yet share David Crystal’s optimistic argument in Stories of English (2004) that we are nearing the end of a “linguistically intolerant era,” and this talk seeks to lay out new ways forward for having a constructive, civil conversation about prescriptivism, language variation, and language change both within the academy and far beyond it.
Of Underbellies and Sensational Signs: Reflections on Taboo in the Digital Public Sphere
Ana Deumert, University of Cape Town, South Africa
This paper takes as its starting point the idea of ‘taboo’, signs that signify the forbidden, the unspeakable and even unthinkable. Taboo discourses are vested with emotion and affect. As noted by Jonathan Imber (2017, in the introduction to Taboo Topics, originally published in 1963), ‘taboo is less about what is prohibited than about the emotion inspired by the thought of what is prohibited’. Jürgen Habermas’ (1962) seminal discussion of the public sphere provides little space for theorizing taboo: it was shaped by a white-male-bourgeois sense of inter-subjective propriety and a calm well-manneredness. This stands in direct contrast to the ‘wild’ carnival publics described by Mikhail Bakhtin in Rabelais and his World (1984 ). These are publics which test the boundaries of ‘good taste’ and link the breaking of taboos to the politics of pleasure. Connecting the public sphere to experience and affect, rather than enlightment rationalism, is also key to Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge’s (1972) work which approaches public spheres as inherently diverse, particularistic and multiple. The public sphere emerges as a place of struggle, a place of diverse constellations, tactics, relations as well as aesthetics.
In exploring the role of taboo in the digital public sphere, I draw on the metaphor of the ‘underbelly’, referring to the hidden, violent and sordid aspects of social life. I will look at this underbelly of digital communication through examples from 4chan’s random board, a global digital space-place that has been described as resembling a ‘high-school bathroom stall’ (Schwartz 2008). Latrinalia tap into carnivalesque semiotics and give articulation to that which is taboo – frequently reframing the unspeakable as speakable, and position those who object ‘as “having no sense of humor” or being “politically correct”’ (Hill 1998: 684). In discussing this particular space-place I explore the idea of ‘sensational signs’ which nods not only towards the spectacular, towards that with is eye-catching and maybe even beautiful, but also towards that which is digusting and repulsive. Sensational signs, in other words, engage the senses in both positive and negative ways. Throughout the paper I will background, rather than foreground, the role of ‘linguistic experts’ as knowledgeable agents; instead I position expertness as demotic practice of everday life (following Santos 2015).
Bakhtin, M.M.  1984. Rabelais and His World. Trans. H. Iswolsky. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Habermas, J. 1962. Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M.
Hill, J. H. 1998. Language, Race and White Public Space. American Anthropologist 3: 680-689.
Imber, J. B. 2017. Introduction. In: Taboo Topics, edited by N.L. Farberow. London Routledge. (First edition 1963)
Negt, O. and Kluge, A. 1972. Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung. Zur Organisationsanalyse von bürgerlicher und proletarischer Öffentlichkeit. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M.
Santos, B. de S., 2014. Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. London: Taylor and Francis.
Schwartz, M. 2008. The Trolls Among Us. New York Times, 3 August 2008.
The homogenization of national publics: Unexpected results of mass mediation
Susan Gal, University of Chicago
Many have noted the “increasingly polyphonous, fractured and heterogeneous discourses” that have gained public visibility in this era of “superdiversity” and “globalization.” Equally striking is the closing down and homogenization of mass mediated political talk. Right wing parties in power in many European countries have destroyed opposition newspapers, TV outlets, billboards, internet sites. In this paper I explore the discursive and rhetorical strategies with which mass media have been homogenized. The primary tool is recombinant registers of political speech. The concepts of “axes of differentiation” and “enregisterment” allow us to analyze how novel forms of political speech are made meaningful to citizens. Long-familiar signs of difference are transformed in surprising ways: Communism is aligned with entrepreneurship; women’s rights are seen as dangerous to progress; homosexuality, capitalism and Roma are equated, as against religion. Demonization of external enemies is an old political tool. Fractal equation of external enemies (immigrants, Europe) with internal categories (women, Roma, leftist parties) creates a novel identity politics. My analyses come from Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, but U.S. examples also illuminate the re-alignments of “enemy”-images and “friends” in political discourses, and how these are taken up in everyday linguistic practices.
Counter/publics and counter/ideologies of linguistic authority: Debating the ‘normalisation’ of Luxembourgish
Kristine Horner, University of Sheffield
Informed by Gal and Woolard’s (2001) seminal work on languages and publics, this paper explores the processes of linguistic representation and the construction of linguistic authority with reference to debates on the ‘normalisation’ of Luxembourgish. The Habermasian notion of publics has been interrogated from multiple perspectives, including its utility in relation to modern mass mediated communication and its role in manufacturing consent as well as challenging dominant discourses. With the recent development and spread of new media, the range of platforms for multiple publics to intersect with, and/or counter one another has diversified, potentially opening up spaces for the reconfiguration of the allocation and contestation of linguistic authority. In this vein, parallels to the interface between the formulation of official language policy and acts of resistance to such policy can be drawn. There is scope to bring the notion of counter/publics more directly into the ambit of language policy scholarship, which I will elucidate upon by examining language ideological debates in Luxembourg (cf. Blommaert 1999).
Focusing on a small rather than a large state, and shifting from centre to periphery, provides a lens to potentially challenge vantage points are that sometimes taken as a given in sociolinguistic research (Pietikäinen et al. 2016). In this instance, the view of ‘wild publics’ as drawing upon multilingualism in opposition to dominant discourses rooted in monolingualism will be relativised. Luxembourg is designated as a trilingual country, officially recognising three languages in the language law of 1984: Luxembourgish as the national language, and French and/or German as legal, judicial and administrative languages. Luxembourgish presents the somewhat paradoxical case of being a small and mostly spoken language with official recognition at national level.
In this paper, I explore recent challenges to aspects of language policy and linguistic representation in Luxembourg, including the prioritisation of German and French for written administrative functions. Petition 698, which was circulated in 2016 and received more signatures than any other petition in the history of Luxembourg, functioned as a springboard for the contestation of language policy and construction of linguistic authority. Its key premise was to make Luxembourgish the first administrative language of the country. Subsequently, a counter Petition 725 in defence of the status quo was circulated, triggering a sequence of highly mediatised language ideological debates, with social actors arguing for and against Petitions 698 and 725 on online platforms. This analysis of competing ideologies of linguistic authority underlines the importance of considering counter/publics in relation to broader scholarship on language policy.
Authority and morality in militant sociolinguistics: the case of translanguaging
Jürgen Jaspers, Université Libre de Bruxelles
“Translanguaging” has in recent years become a highly popular term in socio- and applied linguistics. Originally used to name a bilingual pedagogy, the term is now increasingly part of an attempt to normalize fluid language use as the outcome of a “natural translanguaging instinct” (García & Li Wei 2014: 32), while applying fluid language use at school is suggested to transform individual subjectivities, to improve well-being and learning, and hence to change social inequality. Scholars of translanguaging call on teachers and policy makers to take these insights into account in order to “crack the ‘standard language’ bubble” in education” (García & Li Wei 2014: 115).
In spite of these critical credentials, I argue in this presentation that translanguaging, at least in this militant conception, (1) has more in common with the authorities it criticizes than it may seem; (2) disqualifies other concerns with language as irrational, unnatural, or mystified; while (3) it trades on problematic causality effects. Based on this, I will suggest that it may be useful to understand militant translanguaging research as a “moral model” (D’Andrade 1995), the primary goal of which is to evaluate linguistic practices into good and bad, and to propose matching all-or-nothing corrections, rather than to produce a falsifiable account of how language works at school. In societies where expertise and equality continue to be opposing but fundamental liberal values (Billig et al. 1988), such models may be self-defeating: the precarious evidence risks discrediting its moral agenda as erroneous, while the all-or-nothing correction is bound to be seen as authoritarian.
Rather than implying that (socio)linguists as public experts should therefore refrain from morality, this is to argue that, in these circumstances, their authority to call for change on moral grounds will at least in part depend on producing falsifiable accounts of language at school, on being explicit about their own moral agenda, and on their recognition of the legitimacy of others’ value-based interest in language (cf. Cameron 1995). On these terms, and given that no type of language is ever intrinsically good or bad but subject to conflicting social concerns, public debate about language and education can be expected to generate piecemeal rather than grand solutions.
Billig M. et al. (1988). Ideological dilemmas. A social psychology of everyday thinking. London: Sage.
Cameron D. (1995). Verbal hygiene. London: Routledge.
D’Andrade R. (1995). Moral modals in anthropology. Current Anthropology 36: 3, 399-408.
García O. & Li Wei (2014). Translanguaging. Language, bilingualism andeducation. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Algorithmic Publics and the Future of Discourse Analysis
Rodney H. Jones, University of Reading
There is growing interest in the fields of politics, sociology, and media studies in the role of algorithms in constructing ‘calculated publics’ (Gillespie, 2014), social affiliations based on correlational predictive analytics used for the purposes of marketing, political organization, and the spread of disinformation (‘fake news’). There has also been growing interest in the way algorithms are increasingly constructing our public spaces (both online and off), and enabling and constraining the kinds of social actions that can take place in them, providing social actors with new ‘grammars of action’ (Kitchin and Dodge, 2014) with the ‘potential to reinforce, maintain or even reshape visions of the social world’ (Beer, 2017:81). This paper aims to explore the ways theories from discourse analysis can contribute to our understanding of ‘algorithmic publics’ – both in the sense of algorithmically constructed social affiliations and algorithmically constructed public spaces—as well as the ways algorithms offer new challenges to the way we do discourse analysis.
It begins by surveying the relevance of established theories from pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, and audience design in analysing humans’ encounters with algorithms, helping analysts to avoid the technological determinism that characterises some approaches in other social sciences and to see such encounters as interactional accomplishments in which inferences, intentions and identities are dynamically negotiated, and through which social actors (both human and algorithmic) become agents in their perpetuation of broader social and economic orders (Jones, 2017). It goes on to identify the limitations of such traditional approaches, and suggests new directions for discourse analysts to overcome these limitations. It identifies a number of key issues that discourse analysts must confront in the age of algorithmic publics, including the meaning and function of social identities when such identities are algorithmically calculated and automatically imputed in ways over which we have limited control, the degree to which humans can exercise agency in spaces for social interaction that are becoming increasingly programmable, and the role of affect in driving our interactions with algorithms and with each other in contexts in which phatic communication and affect are increasingly commodified.
Beer, D. (2017). The social power of algorithms. Information, Communication & Society, 20(1), 1–13.
Gillespie, T. (2014) The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. Boczkowski & K. Foot(eds.) Media technologies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 167-193.
Jones, R. (2017). Surveillant media: Technology, language and control. In C. Cotter and D. Perrin (eds.) The Routledge handbook of language and media. London, Routledge, 244-261
Kitchin, R., & Dodge, M. (2014). Code/Space: Software and everyday life. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
Performing private life tensions in public: Migrant parody and the agonism of social media
Sirpa Leppänen, University of Jyväskylä
In my paper I will discuss social media practices that are often seen as particularly contentious: parodic performances that interrogate playfully and/or critically particular social personae, cultural and ethnic groups and relations between these. I will argue that these social media performances are not simply ludic and entertaining in nature, but that they also do serious communicative, social, cultural, critical and political work (Leppänen 2009; Häkkinen & Leppänen 2014; Leppänen & Elo 2016; Halonen & Leppänen 2017). For individuals and affinity groups, such social media performances, and the possibility of sharing and discussing them with audiences in social media are often extremely important. They provide them with both a public space and affordances for self-presentation, communication, interaction and voice in the middle of the clamouring polyphony of the attention economy of social media.
Often these performances are carnivalistic (Bakhtin 1984) and transgressive in nature, involving acts and activities that go beyond, violate or infringe normative boundaries but that, due to the fact that they cross and re-cross these boundaries, also highlight the normativities themselves (Jenks 2003; Wolfreys 2008; van Zoonen 2005; Gournelos & Gunkel 2012; Deumert 2014). What also characterizes them is that they aim to disparage, challenge, critique and/or deconstruct dominant, traditional, conventionalized and/ or official practices and discourses.
To substantiate these conceptualizations of transgressive social media practice, I will discuss vlogging and YouTube videos by Finland-based migrant men. In doing this, I have three main aims. Firstly, I will show how in producing and broadcasting their transgressive performances, social media actors mobilize and recontextualize multisemiotic –linguistic, discursive and cinematic – resources. Secondly, I will demonstrate how their social media activities function as public performative interrogations of tensions in their private, everyday lives. Most significantly, I will demonstrate how their performances, while being humorous and parodic, are also deeply critical in how they make visible and engage with particular normativities, distinctions and relations of power related to what and who migrant men can be in the often hostile host society that projects onto them various forms of otherness, dangerousness and threat. Thirdly, I will show how in such activities social media serve as agonistic (Mouffe 2000, 2005) fora in which not only everyday issues and tensions, but also different hegemonic projects and adversaries are confronted, with little possibility of reconciliation or closure.
Bakhtin, M.M. 1984. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. (Ed. and trans. C. Emerson). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deumert, A. 2014.The Performance of a Ludic Self on Social Network(ing) Sites. In Seargeant, P. & C. Tagg (eds.) The Language of Social Media: Communication and community on the Internet. London/ New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.
Gournelos, T. & D.J. Gunkel. 2012. Trangression 2.0: Media, Culture, and the Politics of a Digital Age. New York: Continuum.
Jenks, C. 2003. Transgression. New York: Routledge.
Halonen, M. & S. Leppänen. 2017. Pissis stories: The self and the other as gendered, sexualized and class-based performance on social media. In Leppänen, S., E. Westinen & S. Kytölä (eds.) Social media discourse, (dis)identifications and diversities. New York: Routledge.
Häkkinen, A. & S. Leppänen. 2014. YouTube Meme Warriors: Mashup videos as satire and interventional political critique. eVarieng 15, http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/series/volumes/15/.
Leppänen, S. 2009. Playing with and policing language use and textuality in fan fiction. In Hotz-Davies, I., A, Kirchhofer & S. Leppänen (eds.) Internet Fictions. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 62-83.
Leppänen, S. & A. Elo. 2016. Buffalaxing The Other: Superdiversity in action on YouTube. In Arnaut, K., J. Blommaert, B. Rampton and M. Spotti (eds.) Language and Superdiversity. New York: Routledge.
Mouffe, Chantal. 2000. Deliberative democracy or agonistic pluralism. Vienna: Department of Political Science. Institute for Advanced Studies, Political Science Series 72.
Mouffe, Chantal. 2005. Which Public Space for Critical Artistic Practices?https://readingpublicimage.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/chantal_mouffe_cork_caucus.pdf)
Wolfreys, J. 2008. Transgression: identity, place, time. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Zoonen, L. van. 2005. Entertaining the Citizen: When Politics and Popular Culture Converge. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Wenn diese Feds watchen … vs. der Rassismus ist subtle: – English in subcultural German languagescapes
Christian Mair, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
The growing impact of English in Germany since the end of World War II has so far largely been dealt with in terms of Anglicisms, i.e. the massive wave of English lexical borrowings which has transformed the vocabulary of contemporary German (see Spitzmüller 2005 and Göttert 2013 for a documentation of the linguistic facts and the most important language ideological frameworks of interpretation). In contrast to this, the present contribution will focus on emerging domains of regular use of English in Germany, be it as a lingua franca or as part of multilingual repertoires. Two of these domains, English as Medium of Instruction (EMI) in higher education and English in business and industry, relate to the activities of social elites and have been studied fairly well already. Increasingly stabilising use of English is also in evidence in some non-prestigious and marginalised domains, such as urban youth cultures and communication between refugees and representatives of German institutions or the resident population. Unlike the elite domains, these two have not been studied in depth yet and will be the focus of this presentation.
The two title quotes are from a song by Austrian rapper Money Boy and a transcribed interview with an African doctoral student. Formally, the kind of English-German language-mixing (Auer 1999) found in these two types of data is not too dissimilar. Functionally, though, there is a considerable contrast. The versatile language mixing displayed by the rapper may be a highly routinized and commodified verbal act, largely disconnected from local community norms. The language mixing found in the sometimes truncated multilingual repertoires of African immigrants and temporary residents in Germany, on the other hand, leads us into more complex territory. Born of necessity, it certainly does not invalidate the oft-heard truism that “die Sprache ist der Schlüssel zur Integration.” On the other hand, assuming that fluency in German is a realistic goal for this group only in the long term, it reminds us that for long periods of time it will have to be intelligent if truncated multilingualism which is the key to their integration.
The fact that, in addition to Standard English, certain nonstandard English resources should figure prominently in the increasingly multilingual languagescapes of contemporary Germany corroborates the World System of Englishes model proposed in Mair (2013).
Alim, H. Samy. 2015. “Hip hop nation language: localization and globalization.” In Jennifer Bloomquist, Lisa J. Green, and Sonja L. Lanehart, eds. The Oxford handbook of African American language. Oxford: OUP. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199795390.013.49
Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at large: cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Auer, Peter. 1999. “From codeswitching via language mixing to fused lects: toward a dynamic typology of bilingual speech.” International Journal of Bilingualism 3: 309-332.
Göttert, Karl-Heinz. 2013. Abschied von Mutter Sprache: Deutsch in Zeiten der Globalisierung. Frankfurt: Fischer.
Gundermann, Susanne. 2014. English-medium instruction: modelling the role of the native speaker in a lingua franca context. PhD Univ. Freiburg. http://www.freidok.uni-freiburg.de/volltexte/9795/
Mair, Christian. 2013. “The World System of Englishes: accounting for the transnational importance of mobile and mediated vernaculars.” English World-Wide 34: 253-278.
Spitzmüller, Jürgen. 2005. Metasprachdiskurse. Einstellungen zu Anglizismen und ihre wissenschaftliche Rezeption. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.
Community managers as new gate keepers of public discourse
Sünje Paasch-Colberg and Christian Strippel, Freie Universität Berlin
It seems to be common sense that the structure of public sphere has changed fundamentally with digitization and the advent of the Internet. In contrast to mass media public sphere, today everybody is invited to participate in public discourses online (Castells, 2010, pp. 355-406). Popular spaces for this online participation are, amongst others, the comment sections of news media outlets on their websites or Facebook pages (Reich, 2011). From the beginning on these comment sections were seen skeptical by a lot of journalists (Hermida & Thurman, 2008), who lost their status as exclusive “gate keepers” (White, 1950) for public discourse. Since then, online incivility and hate speech became one of the biggest problems, broadly discussed and investigated (e.g., Coe et al., 2014). The notion of ‘wild publics’ is therefore connoted with an increasing amount of non-civilized forms of communication.
Against this background, journalists of the respective news websites increasingly feel and are also legally held responsible to moderate the comments and discussions in those sections: Special teams were set up and trained to monitor the ‘user generated content’ and decide if and how people can publish their comments in the respective sections (Braun & Gillespie, 2011). Thereby, these community managers re-introduce the journalistic gatekeeping of public discourse (Bakker, 2014). Their moderation practices follow specific policies, that each reflect a certain understanding of how public discourses should be like: what can be said, how, and by whom (Domingo, 2011).
In our talk we present findings of in-depth interviews with community managers from German news websites. Specifically, we focus on different forms of hate speech they are confronted with as well as the regulative foundations and aims of their work, to compare them with different concepts of public sphere. By this, we seek to contribute to the symposiums’ question on how public sphere is linguistically constituted by authorities.
Bakker, P. (2014). Mr. Gates Returns. Curation, community management and other new roles for journalists. Journalism Studies, 15(5), 596-606. doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2014.901783
Braun, J., & Gillespie, T. (2011). Hosting the public discource, hosting the public. When online news and social media converge. Journalism Practice, 5(4), 383-398. doi: 10.1080/17512786.2011.557560
Castells, M. (2010). The Rise of the Network Society (The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture (2nd ed., Vol. 1). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Coe, K., Kenski, K., & Rains, S. A. (2014). Online and Uncivil? Patterns and Determinants of Incivility in Newspaper Website Comments. Journal of Communication, 64(4), 658-679. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12104
Domingo, D. (2011). Managing Audience Participation. Practices, Workflows and Strategies. In: J. B. Singer, D. Domingo, A. Heinonen, A. Hermida, S. Paulussen, T. Quandt, Z. Reich, & M. Vujnovic (Hrsg.), Participatory journalism: guarding open gates at online newspapers (S. 76-95). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Hermida, A., & Thurman, N. (2008). A clash of cultures. The integration of user-generated content within professional journalistic frameworks at British newspaper websites. Journalism Practice, 2(3), 343-356. doi: 10.1080/17512780802054538
Reich, Z. (2011). User Comments: The transformation of participatory space. In: J. B. Singer, D. Domingo, A. Heinonen, A. Hermida, S. Paulussen, T. Quandt, Z. Reich, & M. Vujnovic (Hrsg.), Participatory journalism: guarding open gates at online newspapers (S. 96-117). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
White, D.M. (1950). The Gate Keeper: A Case Study in the Selection of News. Journalism Quarterly 27(4), 383-390. doi: 10.1177/107769905002700403
Affective or algorithmic publics? Social media discourse dynamics from Pegida to Brexit
Cornelius Puschmann, Hans-Bredow-Institut für Medienforschung, Hamburg
After an initial optimistic period regarding its potential to advance public deliberation and democratize elite discourses, social media is increasingly framed critically in the mass media and scholarship as enabling echo chambers and feeding political polarization. Public outcries over the proliferation of hate speech and fake news online call into question the ability of platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to truly enable public debate, and have resulted in initiatives to more strongly regulate such platforms. Instead of critical and rational deliberation, affect and automation appear to shape social media debates, resulting in an enhanced visibility of users who are either very vocal (and usually angry) humans, or social bots. What does this mean for the legitimacy of such debates? In my talk I will outline a set of criteria for the evaluation of social media issue publics, applied to a number of examples of divisive European public debates in recent years. I will point to user activity patterns, information dissemination dynamics ("virality"), and language as criteria that allow us to get a sense of how polarized particular discourses are, and what role highly active users play in them.
LL in the city as masks and illusions
Elana Shohamy, Tel Aviv University
The paper examines the overt and covert policies created by central authorities in urban spaces. The data and findings are based on seven studies carried out over a period ten years where municipalities and other central juggle around with LL in public spaces to create order in a post modern wild era of complex diversity. The city of Tel Aviv, Israel is the target of this research where the studies examined different locations in the city in specific events of varied times. The method used for the analysis, was synthesis analysis conclusions are reached based on the integration of a number of studies in accordance with specific theories. Synthesis analysis enables the arrival of new and comprehensive analyses of phenomenon in post modern times. Study 1 provides findings that show as to how ideologies are used via LL in space in terms of solidarity and imagined belongings. Study 2 shows how the city uses different types of LL to market national ideologies to local and outsiders. Study 3 demonstrates how naming streets attempts to create group identities and re-belonging to Zionism, even for groups who the city rejects. Study 4 examines reactions of audiences of the city against the homogenous ideas and denial of unpleasant events while LL is marketing ‘fake ideology‘. Study 5 focuses on diverse neighborhoods and their ways of creating alternative LLs that fits their ways of lives. Study 6 reveals how multilingual LL signs are used while overlooking the very people who use these languages and their stories. Lastly, study 7 examines how agents of the municipality such a tour guides, mediate the agendas of the city in accordance with the city’s ideologies which overlooks, deny and reject diversity.
The conclusions from these studies demonstrate how LL is being used as propaganda tool to promote national agendas and redefine and perpetuate economic and political ideologies. This is manifested via names of streets, design of narratives, uniformity of historical events and more. The city is being viewed as an opportunistic actor who utilizes specific occasions to market these agendas. Two major levels exist, acceptance and protesting by those marginalized. The final point is that the city creates illusions in manipulative ways via LL so that LL in this case is no more than urban masks displayed in sophisticated ways to perpetuate power and domination (Lefebre, 2003). LL and its uses need to be watched and critiqued like other dangerous tools.
Ideological Visions: The Discursive Appropriation of ‘Public Space’ as a Reflexive Practice
Jürgen Spitzmüller, Universität Wien
This presentation discusses how ‘public space’ is being created, delimited, claimed and appropriated by means of metapragmatic acts that make material phenomena ‘visible’, link such ‘visible’ things to enregistered personae and practices and thus provide anchor points for processes of social positioning. It also discusses how such spatial allocations, due to their interpretive nature, are intrinsically dynamic, multi-layered and context-bound, resulting in constantly changing ‘public spaces’, or ‘spatial readings’, on the one hand, and attempts to fix and hegemonize particular readings, on the other.
The presentation particularly focuses on the role of graphic variation (and associated graphic ideologies) in public space and demonstrates how the ‘visibility’ of graphics and script is by no means a given property but rather something that needs to be actively enforced and negotiated. It furthermore points out that ‘visibility’ is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for interpretive salience. Consequently, the presentation argues in favor of, and connects with, recent ethnographic approaches to semiotized spaces that center on social actors-in-space and the respective values and beliefs to which they display orientation or which they allocate to communicative forms, rather than to the bare signs (alone).
Premium Power: Obedient Publics and the Violent Rhetorics of Elite Discourse
Crispin Thurlow, University of Bern
This paper seeks to navigate a middle ground between the phlegmatic publics of Habermas and the bolshie publics of Bakhtin, as characterized by Michael Gardiner (2004). Inspired by Frédéric Lordon’s (2014) complementary reading of Spinoza and Marx, I offer a perspective on the rhetorics of elite discourse (Thurlow & Jaworski, 2017) by which publics are seen to be obediently aligning and enlisting themselves in the service of social order. My argument is mounted in a specific word: “premium”. This floating signifier is nowadays attached to any number of goods and services, seducing people into an easy sense of distinction and superiority, one which invariably comes also at the expense of others. We see this most vividly in the practices of so-called premium economy, a profit-driven reconfiguration of international airline travel. Indeed, the aeroplane is both a manifestation of, and a vehicle for producing, inequality. It is certainly an ideal site for studying contemporary class formations and, I hope, for addressing issues of spatiality, sociality, and “publicness”.
Grounded empirically in a corpus of promotional materials from nearly fifty international airlines, my paper combines content- and discourse-analytic methods for detailing the semiotic tactics (e.g. lexicon, images, colour, typography, layout) by which airlines manage the need to offer a reasonable service for all passengers while creating a sense of prestige for their richer (or tax-subsidized) passengers. In this regard, my focus is specifically on the staging of premium economy services. Advertising copy here is densely packed with unattainable assurances (e.g. “total relaxation” and “ultimate comfort”), along with oxymoronic references to “cosy spaciousness” and constant appeals to comparative quality (i.e. “better”) or quantity (i.e. “more”). All of which is designed to fabricate a status distinctive from economy class while carefully managing its separation from the even more prestigious business class or first class. Such are the not-so-subtle language games at work.
The seemingly frivolous, innocuous practices of “premium” and “premium economy” function as forms of symbolic violence (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992). Here language is deployed as a resource for controlling people, but in ways that are achieved through seduction and consent. In other words, and to return to Lordon, we find the aspirational bourgeoisie joyfully enslaving themselves (and others) into the aspirational logics of elite discourse. This is a discourse increasingly animated by post-class ideologies (Thurlow, 2016) and the self-serving illusions of access and inclusivity. Ultimately, if we fail to address the desirous impulses of status and the concomitant euphoria of distinction, we seriously misrecognize the hegemonic intransigence of privilege/inequality.
Bourdieu, P. & Wacquant, L. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gardiner, M. (2004). Wild publics and grotesque symposiums: Habermas and Bakhtin on dialogue, everyday life and the public sphere. Sociological Review, 52(1), 28–48.
Lordon, F. (2014). Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire [trans. G. Ash]. London: Verso.
Thurlow, C. (2016). Queering critical discourse studies or/and performing post-class ideologies. Critical Discourse Studies, 13(5), 485–514.
Thurlow, C. & Jaworski, A. (2017). Introducing elite discourse: The rhetorics of status, privilege and power. Social Semiotics, 27(3), 243–254.
Codification – prescription – prescriptivism: the authority of the lay-person
Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
Some countries, like France, Italy and Spain, have a language academy that regulates the language and imposes a standard of correctness on the speakers and writers of that language. The Netherlands, too, have one, though it operates on spelling only. As for English, however, there were many calls for the institution of such an academy, particularly at the beginning of the eighteenth century and sometimes even much more recently, but an English Academy never materialised. Instead, the language was codified from below, by men and women from all walks of life who became grammarians and lexicographers in the process (see e.g. Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2017). In this respect, the English standardisation process, which took place during many centuries (e.g. Nevalainen and Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2006) is very different from that of languages like Basque, Norwegian or Indonesian, which were submitted to a linguistic standardisation process from above and in the course of a much shorter timespan.
The next stage in the English standardisation process, prescription (Milroy and Milroy  2012), gave us the usage guide (or language advice manual) as its main product. Usage guides developed into an extremely popular text type, and are still published in large numbers today despite easy online access to language advice sites like Grammar Girl and many others. What usage guides have in common with the eighteenth-century normative grammars is that they were written by non-experts: men and, from the late nineteenth-century on, women who felt called upon to try and rid the language of alleged errors and, in general, variable usage. Eventually linguists did enter the scene, but the usage guide is primarily a non-specialist genre (e.g. Straaijer forthc.), which is characterised by a lack of consensus (even among the linguists who did contribute to the genre) as to what precisely it should contain.
England, according to Milroy and Milroy ( 2012), has a complaint tradition, which is evident, among other things, in the popular genre called the “letter to the editor” (Lukač 2016). Spotting linguistic errors like those that found their way into the usage guides from the earliest days of the tradition on, people write to the newspapers or the BBC to voice their complaints, setting themselves up as guardians of correctness – and acting, in fact, not very differently from the eighteenth-century normative grammarians and the subsequent writers of usage guides.
But who are these people? What makes them assume the role of grammarian, lexicographer, or general language watchdog to begin with? This is a question I will deal with in this paper, and I will do so by focusing on grammar writers and writers of usage guides. In addition, by way of a case study, I will discuss members of the general public, who, inspired by the publication of John Honey’s highly controversial pamphlet The Language Trap (1983), took the opportunity to put before the writer a variety of linguistic problems they encountered in the language, both voicing their complaints and asking Honey’s expert linguistic opinion as they did so.
Lukač, Morana. 2016. Linguistic prescriptivism in letters to the editor. In Attitudes to Prescriptivism¸ special issue of Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development 37/3, ed. by Robin Straaijer, 321-333.
Milroy, James and Lesley Milroy.  2012. Authority in Language. Investigating Language Prescription and Standardization [4th ed.]. London: Routledge.
Nevalainen, Terttu and Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. 2006. Standardisation. In: Richard Hogg and David Denison (eds.), A History of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 271-311.
Straaijer, Robin (forthc.). The usage guide: Evolution of a genre. In: Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (ed.), English Usage Guides: History, Advice, Attitudes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 11-29.
Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid. 2017. Perspectives on standardization: From codification to prescriptivism. In: Laurel Brinton (ed.), English Historical Linguistics: Approaches and Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 276-302.
Infotaining the imagined audience. How journalists recontextualize elite discourse
Tom Van Hout, University of Antwerp & Leiden University
In an era of proliferating news discourse and growing distrust of establishment institutions, journalists face a double bind: they need to embrace the digital world to maintain and attract audiences and keep up to speed with news flows across social networks, while at the same time they must work to distinguish their profession, their product, and their outlets from knowledge rivals. To live up to this challenge, journalists employ a range of discursive techniques. One such technique, usually reserved for campaign coverage but increasingly used in business-as-usual political coverage, focuses attention on the linguistic performance of people in the news and associates types of language use with types of speakers. To illustrate this claim, I discuss journalists’ uptake of political (mis)communication. My data consist of recycled snippets of reported speech taken from a Belgian news site. These snippets present us with what journalists consider worth using (and re-using), revealing, and thus infotaining, bits of reported speech about the main characters: the quoted politician and the journalist captioning the quote. Rather than speak for themselves, the quotes are recentered to speak through recontextualization and double-voicing. I argue that such journalistic metadiscourse formulates acceptable and unacceptable interactional styles and linguistic performance in the public sphere. I analyze how the journalistic responses evaluate the reported speakers. Findings show how a media logic conditions what politicians can and cannot say, to whom and about whom, and how journalists assess politicians who do not comply with this logic. Evaluations of the moral and verbal merits of what politicians do with words evince an appreciation for colorful characters, self-deprecatory humor, plain language, and stylistic craftsmanship. Media criticism is generally rebuffed: text bites do boundary work, demarcating the professional territory of journalists and politicians.