Essay: Social media language

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  • Subject area(s): Media essays
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Social media language is a new phenomena in our society and it has been brought about by the prevalence of social networking sites which have brought about new channels of communication. At the center of the language used on social media is morphology as new words are being formed and used on social networks and further introduced in every day used language and with that introduced into mainstream dictionaries. There are a number of perspectives in the definition of the term ‘morphology’, which is part of the focus of this study. As Aronoff and Fudeman (2011:11) define Morphology as the mental system involved in word formation or to the branch of linguistics that deals with words, their internal structure, and how they are formed. Additionally, Booji (2005:5) defines morphology as the sub-discipline of linguistics that, deals with the knowledge of systematical relationship between the form and meaning of words. In a different perspective, Deutscher (2006:1) states that language is mankind’s greatest invention. However, in further retrospect, Deutscher points out that language was never invented. Deutscher argues that language undergoes several processes formation, evolution, refinenement and decay. This leads to the meaning that when words are formed in any language, they do not retain the original morphology but are refined with time to serve the communicative needs of the social group that is using that particular language. Morphology interacts with other domains of linguistics. This is to show that morphology does not exist in isolation of linguists. First, we have the way in which morphology interacts with phonology. Stekauer et al. (2007) claims that the morphological makeup of words brings considerable influence on its pronunciation, that is what makes some words easier to pronounce than others, Second, which is important to the subject of this study is the relationship morphology maintains with another branch of linguistics, semantics. Perfetti and Verhoeven (2011:461) say that children approach new words in most cases by analyzing them into their constituent parts and that in the course of schooling, children’s ability to segment and manipulate morphemes within complex words increases substantially. Third, there is an interface between morphology and syntax. Junghanns and Szucsich (2003:25) say that inflectional morphology results from syntactic operations.
Language does not maintain its original form of words and hence neologisms are continually formed. Brinton (2000:4) writes that inflection is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case. He gives an example of the Latin verb ‘ducam’ – meaning “I will lead” which includes the suffix –am, expressing person (first), number (singular) and tense (future). This research will focus on such neologisms that are continually being formed on the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Crystal (1999) asserts that derivation is the process of forming new words on the basis of existing words which often ivolves the additions of morphemes in the form of an affix.
Akuna (2012) outlines that neologisms are formed by reduction of elements such as abbreviations, backformation and shortenings, among other processes. Akunna adds that there are also neologisms that result from semantic change, coinages, conversion or loans. This research will focus on linguistic items, some of which have been derived from existing words. Morphology, in this sense, is hence very useful to linguists, since with the means of morphology we can follow the birth and rise process of any new word. Morphology gives rise to neologisms and since this study will be focused on them, it is important to examine the number of definitions of the term ‘neologism’. And since the study will give main focus to the neologism that rise on the social media platforms, therefore, I will give explanation of the various definitions on the terms ‘social media’ in regard to the Internet and Internet tools that are used in our everyday life.

1.1. Statement of the problem

Having focused on the background of the study, this subsection of the chapter will put a spotlight on the statement of the problem to bring out the information gap and to show the urgency to fill it. The rise in the use of social media has brought a parallel rise in the creation of neologisms that are exclusive to Facbook, Twitter and Instagram subscribers, their updates, post and feeds. These new abbreviations, word phrases and ‘hastags’ are formed from a variety of processes that the subscriber and social media users may not be aware of, since presently there is rarely any index of such neologisms and the general population may not be even aware that neologisms as such exist. By describing the neologisms that have emerged on the social media platforms with the patterns of creation that they manifest, the study helps to introspect these new linguistic phenomena. The neologisms that this study intends to decompose, are assumed to belong to different categories that are not known presently. This study categorizes the neologisms from social media with the intention to discover word categories that various neologisms belong to. Social media neologisms are assumed to be formed from a variety of morphological processes, such as compounding, abbreviation, coinage, clipping and reduplication. By determining these processes, as well as dwelling into the semantic meaning of the neologisms this study may have fill this information gap.

1.2. Study aim and objectives

If considering the English vocabulary as an adaptive system, it is easily adapted to the different changes in human communications, cultural needs and new environment, so as to be fit for a new use. To express ourselves we choose words that can precisely convey all our feelings and thoughts from existing stock of words. If this is impossible- to find such word that can fit the situation, people would create new one. When changes prove to be useful in the language, they stay in the vocabulary. New notions constantly come into being in order to name new things, or, sometimes, old words are replaced by new words for things that proceed to exist. Therefore, the number of words in language is not permanent, it always varies. The entrance of new words in the vocabularies, as a rule is more than their reduction. It is obvious that it is hard to predict the fate of neologisms due to the fact that some of them remain in vocabulary and are accepted by people for a long period of time, while others are short-lived and rapidly disappear from the language. Once accepted, they may serve as a basis for further creation. ‘Zip’ (an imitative word denoting certain type of fastener) is no longer a new word, but its derivatives- the verb form “to zip’ ( to stop talking, or to zip from one to another place), the corresponding personal noun zipper and the adjective zippy – appear to be neologisms (Arnold 1986). The process of production of new words is certainly connected with word-building. Together with borrowing, word-building affects the vocabulary of English language by enriching and enlarging it. There are several types of word-formation: echoism, reduplication, back-formation, shortening, affixation, composition and conversion – all of which will be further explained in the context of social media neologisms in the further chapters of this study.
As the main aim of this study thesis is to analyze recent neologisms influenced by the mass use of social media and identifying their word-formation processes and their semantic meaning, it is hypothesized that social media is the focal point of initiating new words into English vocabulary. Therefore, this work would do a research into all word-formation means and semantic meaning to determine the productive ways of forming new words that have recently appeared in the English language.

The objectives of this study would include:
1. To define the social media neologisms to reveal their meanings, word-classes and formation processes
2. To foreground the word-formation processes and word-classes of each of the social media neologisms
3. To give an answer to which word formation process and which word-class are most common among social media neologisms.

1.3. Justification and significance of the Study
The motivation of studying social media platforms and the language used on them is that these are a form of new media and are enjoying extensive popularity worldwide. The study will benefit linguists since social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have unique linguistic patterns and tendencies. Another reason for studying exactly these three social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is because they are the leading social network sites which enjoy more than 500 million active users who engage on the platforms daily to facilitate and ongoing dialogue using variety of features, such as blogs, chats, statuses, feeds, writing comments, replying tweets and using mentions and hashtags. The findings of this study will be of importance to linguists who are interested in the contribution of social media to neologisms. Gontsarova (2013: 2), after analysis of several media websites, states that with the development of science and technology, many new words appear in the language and that the language vocabulary is changing all the time at an increasing speed. The findings of this study will show the contribution of social media platforms to morphology in general. Hidup (2011) says that social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and Linkedin have contributed new words to the English language and that these sites bring new dimensions in form, meaning and usage of certain words. We should also mention that language, does not exist in isolation (Yule, 2006 :11); it exist in a culture and a society and so linguistic anthropologists will also be interested in the findings of this study since it will show how social media neologisms have affected life and the society. Lastly, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are areas that are under-researched and the study researcher has a personal interest about neologisms formed and used on social media platforms.

The study focuses on the neologisms found on the social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There is an array of material found on these platforms that also include images and videos (Dean, 2014). However, this study will only focus on the written material and text found on the above mentioned social media platforms. The rationale for this is that these platforms exhibit interesting and peculiar writing styles that are embedded in the written text which are of interest for linguists. The research targets content found on these platforms, that the researcher has been a subscribed to for almost 8 years. This was because the researcher observed the writing styles on many “influencers” on social media and their peculiarities and found them to be a fertile ground for morphological research. The study targets English neologisms. This is because the fact that social media has brought forth new ways of communication that are full of new linguistic items. Verbs, nouns and adjectives in the English language were targeted in this study. A study conducted by Benedict (1979;184) on early lexical development, comprehension and production of language among children revealed that the bulk of their words consisted of nouns and verbs. Similarly, a morphological analysis of the Kuot culture by Liddicoat (2007: 195) reveals that this language has only two open word classes ant these are nouns and verbs.
In the same vein, newly invented nouns, verbs and adjectives are considered open class words and can always be used grammatically in a sentence (Erica, 2014 :171). The concern of the study is to examine social media platforms neologisms and account for their formation. The main focus is to examine how existing words were modified to create neologisms and how completely new words were being invented. One limitation that the researcher encountered was the impediment of vernacular content on the social platforms as well as code-mixing where the respondents use more than one language in texts. This challenge was solved by leaving out phrases and expressions that were in different language other than the one targeted in the study.

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