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to-many (such as a collective forum). The communicative norms which emerge in a given

social media site can also be influenced by if the context of the interaction is private (like Direct

Messages) or public (like Wikipedia). People adopt their language according to the context.


Social media are a relatively recent phenomenon. There is a distinction between digital natives

(who grew up using social media and have never known a world without) and digital

immigrants (who adopted social media only as adults). Linguistic research which explores

social media platforms is rich and includes analysis of how elements of the language system

are reconfigured in online context and how the dynamics of interpersonal communication are


Linguistic are still arguing about what exactly language is. According to the traditional theories

of the role of language in communication, language is seen as a semiotic system (a system of

signs used to encode meaning that senders intend to communicate). The signs may be

abstract but take a conventional meaning, the meaning can be transmitted in spoken, written

or signed forms. Other kinds of signs (such as the colour of a written letter) may influence the

meaning; all communication is multimodal. Language is also a way for individuals to interact

with other, it is always situated in a particular context and acquires meaning only in its context.

Linguistic and non-linguistic practices are used together. Almost uses of language are linked

with past and future uses of language. Analyzing Youtube comments, we realise the

importance of context and the relationship of each comment to other previous. There has been

a move away from the idea of there are distinct languages, the boundaries between languages

are not clear. In social media is a mix of different semiotic resources. Through the punctuation

and font, the user can express meaning. Some visual resources cannot be classified as

belonging to one language rather than another (like emoticons, used with many language

varieties). Researchers are developing new ways of conceptualising language: some of them

have used the idea of polylanguagaging, which refers to the ways in which users

simultaneously use features associated with different languages. Some researchers sustain

that traditional notions of diversity in sociolinguistics don’t work in the contemporary world.

Superdiversity is closely related to changes in communication media and it means that notions

of diversity are difficult to sustain. One important aspect for someone doing research on social

media is that there is constant change online. Language can be analysed at different levels,

such as: linguistic practices (what people do with language), texts (collection of words, clauses

and sentences that have a clear communicative function), clauses and sentences (words

arranged in a structure), words (units of meaning consisting of one or more morphemes),

morphemes (the smallest units of meaning) and phonemes (individual sounds or signs). Users

in social media contexts code-switch using several different languages or varieties in the

course of an interaction, or style-shift, using formal and less formal language in different parts

of a text.

The relationship between different form of communication in social media can sometimes

make it hard to identify the boundaries or the textual units you need to collect. This relates to

two pair of terms: text and context. Deciding what counts as the text is not always easy, but it’s

important because the decision will guide what material you might collect for a research project

and the ethical considerations you might need to do and because your choice of textual unit

will be linked to the ways you choose to analyse the material. There is no a rule about what

kinds of unit will work best for analyzing language use, it’s important to consider the text into a

particular context. Linguistic and sociological researchers have payed attention to the

contextual factors that might be important when interpreting data, such as:

Participants: the people who take part in the interaction and their relationship to others,

Imagined context: the projected context created cognitively by participants on the basis of their

world knowledge,

Extra-situational context: the offline social practices in which the participants are involved,

Behavioural context: the physical situation in which the participants interact via social media,

Generic context: the social media site in which the communication takes place including the

site’s purpose, rules and norms.

Some users are used to combine punctuation marks in creative ways to indicate tone of voice

or other kind of meaning, these are called emoticons. Some other typical orthographic features

of written CMC are acronyms (like LOL for laugh out loud), word reductions (like hv for have)

or letter homophones (like U for you). They are used in informal text. Emoticons aren’t a

synonymous whit Internet language as a whole.

Each new social media platform generate descriptions of how language is used, and how

language use has changed or is changing as a result of particular technologies. According to

Herring, CMC researchers have to consider more deeply the question of what determines

people’s use of mediated communication, she said that technological innovation is mostly

superficial in CMC. There is a distinction between spoken, written and in-between language

use. The netspeak is the written language in digital context. Linguistic research has searched

to define language use in digital contexts with reference to earlier genres, such as

conversations compared with instant messaging or letters compared with emails. More recent

approaches have emphasized the linguistic practices in social media contexts and the way

people use language to construct and negotiate their identities. The different domains of

language are: structure, meaning, interaction, social behaviour, participation and multimodal

communication. There is a rich and diverse range of research that has begun to emerge in

social media sites contexts. Even if many of these studies consider verbal forms of language

as the primary feature for analysis (such as register or word choice) they also include

multimodal resources (such as gesture and image) used in communication. Each study varies

in the kinds of questions and in the methods of analysis that are used.


Research means investigating a particular phenomenon in order to bring a new knowledge to

light. The fast-changing forms of communication that take place via social media sites are an

attractive material for researchers. On the one hand, research is an exciting activity, but on the

other hand, acquiring the skills needed for the research can seem hard cause there are varied

ways in which both languages and social media can be investigated. Research should involve

systematic inquiry, it might be experimental, it requires careful planning and includes a

decision of the project’s aims and question. The planning process can take time and involve

making decisions which are then revisited, revised or rejected. The research process usually

contains the same elements: identify an area of interest, define the aims of the research,

formulate research questions, select an appropriate methodology, select and collect data,

analyse the data, interpret results and draw conclusions and present the research. There are

different research interests.

Academic disciplines are communities of scholars who develop particular norms and practices

for their scholarship. The research of how language is used in social media is relevant to

different disciplines, including psychology or sociology. It’s an interdisciplinary research and

the collaborations of researchers of the different disciplines leads to many results and

conclusions. However, the research it’s not always easy cause the boundaries which

demarcate one discipline from another can sometimes act as barriers which make research

more difficult. The methods used for selecting and collecting data might vary in one discipline

compared with another. Different scholarly organizations can have different guidelines for

ethical procedures. Seeing your own work from another point of view can bring to light its

limitations and value that are sometimes left implicit. The process of critical reflection from one

discipline’s perspectives to another can help you define your object of study and approach.

Methodology refers to the logic for a particular approach to research and is distinct from the

methods that are used to make the research itself. There are three key paradigms which are

used to describe differences in methodology: quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. All

three paradigms are used across different disciplines, but can be applied in different ways and

for different ends. Quantitative methodologies tend to examine the phenomenon in question in

a way that measures it, instead of qualitative methodologies that are more interested in

discover particular perspectives and models. A quantitative methodology might measure the

frequency of particular words or trace trends relate to macro-level perspectives, a qualitative

approach might be more interested in how the interaction is organized or in the pragmatic

choices made by participants. All research includes elements of qualitative and element of

quantitative research. Quantitative approaches use procedures for analysis that can be

standardized and so re-applied to measure other sets of data. In experimental design, the

researcher assigns participants to particular groups and them asks them to engage in activities

that will test the participants’ responses to particular phenomena. The results of a quantitative

study usually involve numerical outcomes, and are calculated using mathematical operations,

including statistical tests, it give the appearance of objectivity and use categories that are

already established by the researcher. Qualitative work tends to deal with a smaller number of

people but it has more details, it’s more openly interpretative about the data, it’s more

emergent, the researcher doesn’t establish a clear hypothesis to test but collect data and then

sees which features emerge as prominent from the collected material, the researcher includes

a critical reflection. There are many studies which includes elements from qualitative and

quantitative paradigms, referred to as a mixed methods. There are different ways to combine

qualitative and quantitative approaches, for example by including a range of questions or using

different types of data collection. There are many advantages for using mixed methods, such

as a quantitative analysis may be able to provide contextualising information about large-scale

trends in language use, while qualitative analysis can allow the researcher to focus on just one

aspect. Another advantage of combining multiple perspectives is described as triangulation,

that uses more than one source of information in the research design and co-ordinates the

perspectives which result from each source to provide a fuller picture of the phenomenon

under investigation. Sometimes triangulation is used to value if the same results apply across

different contexts confirm how representative the research results of a project might be. Some

methods are more closely appropriate with one paradigm rather than another (statistical tests

are used in quantitative studies).


Researchers have responsibilities to the other people with whom they engage during the

research process. Damage must be avoid, this easy principle in practice is more complex. In

the vase of researching social media from a linguistic perspective it may not always be clear

who all the participants in the study are, for example. Some research practices are unethical

and som practices are considered unacceptable. There can be serious consequences for

unethical research, for example being dismissed from an academic post. One of the

challenges of researchers interested in the language of social media is that the fundamental

principles of ethical research were developed in relation to the medical sciences in offline

contexts. Analyzing a public post without a person’s consent or knowledge is a potential

source of anxiety whose interaction might be the object of linguistic research. Sometimes the

methods of linguistic inquiry will focus more on the experiences of the participant , while other

methods may not pay attention to the author of a text (as in the large-scale datasets).

According to how much the participants are considered, the researchers will make ethical

choices, they are influenced also by the national and institutional practices and guidelines.

There is no single set of recommendations for ethical research that can be prescribed

universally to cover each and every research project. Decisions made about ethical aspects of

the research have to be valued case-by-case.

There are several sources of information and advice that researchers can consult. Review

procedures and international guidelines are documented to protect human rights. There are

also governmental laws with which research must join, such as copyright laws. Legislation can

vary from one country to another, and can change over time. People has the right to be able to

access information saved about them and to be assured that any data collected about them

will be filed securely. Social media sites have further regulations.

The researcher must consider where the materials he want to analyse are situated because

the context in which the social media materials are produced or published influences the

ethical aspects of accessing that material. All individuals should have the right to decide for

themselves what and how much others get to know about them, and so there is the right of the

privacy regulated by laws. The regulatory aspects of privacy are also determined by site-

specific terms and conditions (for example, social media network sites offer their members the

opportunity to control the visibility of the material they post through mechanisms like password

protection). The public or private nature or the material inform when the researcher can

ethically access and when he should have the participant consent. There are public

environments (open and available for anyone with an Internet connection to access), semi-

public environments (sites that are public but require the registration), semi-private

environments (available only to some people) and private environments (whose access is

restricted to the creator of the content). The nature of privacy is also influenced by the

perception of the participants, that can vary from one culture to another, for example. The

ways in which participants use certain areas of a social media site can vary in terms of their

expectation of privacy. A participant may write to an imagined audience in mind, the actual

audience can make themselves known to the author (such as by writing comments), but there

is also an invisible audience.

At one hand, a researcher may not ever directly interact with the person who authored a social

media text (as in the cases of a large-scale dataset from posts which are randomly selected),

at the other, a researcher may interact with participants through interviews and focus group

discussions. A researcher may be an outside observer of the social media site. The researcher

need to respect the human right to autonomy (allowing the participants to choice to participate

or not). The researcher may or not make their identity known and his relationship to the

participants can change over time. Some researchers choose to create specific accounts used

only for their research on particular sites.

Informed consent is the process by which researchers can allow participants to negotiate,

document and agree their contribution to a research project. The decision of whether or not to

have informed consent can depend on what kind of analysis the research want to conduct or

which are the participants (such as young people or old one). Some research context require

full signatures on consent documents.

Once you have extracted the data you need for your project, you will need to prepare it so that

any personal information contained in the materials is protected adequately. Formal indicators

of identity such as a participant’s name or date of birth, are features which should be

anonymised. Paratextual information like GPS locations may also need to be removed,

depending on if the data might compromise the privacy of a participant. Personal information

can be replaced by using pseudonyms, fictional names or a system of codes. The

responsibility to protect the participant’ privacy rights also influences how to represent their

material when writing up the results of a study. It’s needed that any codes are not too obscure.


Techno-linguistic biographies are a life story in relation to technologies, they can be used as an

important source of research data and provide a method for researching language and identity

online. The process has a set of steps which will be covered one-by-one. The first step is

researching the self (such as identifying the interest of a person, investigating their everyday

life or examining the linguistic choices made in social media), then the second step is exploring

differences across time and place (interview other people who differ from them in age, gender

or culture), the last step is using published surveys (contextualising the result). These

methodologies can complement each other and provide different ways of seeing the world.

Having collected data, often using several methods, the next step is to make sense of it, this is

the stage of data analysis. You have to read and re-read the transcriptions, the aim is to

identify and develop themes in the data (making notes about anything which seems relevant).

The next stage of the research is the writing, there are different t ways of writing. Much sense-

making and interpretation take place during the act of writing about the research.



Hashtags are an emergent convention for labeling the topic of a post, we mark our discourse

so that it can be found by others, there is a virtual link between people. In Web 2.0 (or social

web), I fernet becomes interactive and it isn’t only used as a source of information; it’s

dynamic, users generate and share contents and create and develop online relationships.

Developed in 2006, Twitter allows users to post messages of 140 characters or less to the

general internet or to followers. These microposts are called tweets and the content is public

and searchable unless the user makes his account private. A tweet may incorporate links to

micromedia or URLs. Twitter collects supplementary metadata about a tweet, such as the time

it was generated or the information about the user’s account. Tweets also contain metadata for

managing interaction with others (@ indicating address and # labelling topic). Many millions of

tweets are posted each day, Twitter has seen an extremely large increase and the large

volume of language is of great interest to linguists. In real-time web, users have an immediate

access to what is being said in social networks at any given moment. Natural disasters or

celebrity death, for example, generate widespread social media response. The most

commonly used form of social media is the social networking service (SNS), used by millions

of people worldwide, they are services with which users create an online profile about

themselves with the goal of connecting with other people and being findable. SNS offer an

opportunity to collect and analyse different aspects of online discourse.

The advent of social media means that the function of online talk has become increasingly

focused on negotiating and maintaining relationships. Online conversation is increasingly

used. Microblogging streams offer a way of finding out about dominant trends in what people

are saying. Social search refers to a mode of searching that use a user’s social networks.

Interpersonal search use the social opinions extractable from online networks.

The streams of online social contact produced by users leave permanent traces that can be

captured and modeled by researchers trying to understand the properties of the social

networks. The concept of influence refers to which users have the most impact on information

diffusion. Users pay attention only to content that interests them, they have an occasional

attention. Social media create micro-celebrity. The number of the followers is the key,

celebrities follow celebrities.

Linguistic analysis offers a lens on how networks of interpersonal relationships are formed and

maintained. CMC is Computer Mediated Communication and study online community

formation. Much research into CMC tends towards generalization rather than applying a

particular strategy. Virtual communities a merge when enough people have a public discussion

on the Net and form relationships in cyberspace. Some language-based research into social

media communities has been done by linguists in the area of sentiment analysis and natural

language processing.

The semiotic perspective is interpersonal meaning that builds and sustains online social

networks. If I have to look at textual relations, I use the concept of coupling, where the variable

“x” comes with variable “y”, I look both qualitative and quantitatively at the ways of

interpersonal meaning (expressing support for the victims of an earthquake involves a coupling

of positive attitude with the ideational topic realized in the hashtag).


Research into new media and the internet from a communication perspective is an area that

began to emerge around 1996. Depending on the theoretical orientation adopted, these

studies may employ close analysis of small volumes of text or wider analysis using corpora

consisting of texts derived from internet media. Some studies are interested in particular

features of language of web-based communication, while others explore them more generally.

Very large web-based billion-word corpora are beginning to emerge, such as USENET.

Corpora should be built according to carefully constructed selection criteria, these criteria

define the type and scope of data to be included in the corpus. The World Wide Web consist of

hypertext documents that are linked together, it’s a large collection of text, it is a multimodal

assortment since web documents may comprise a range of multimedia (including text, image

and video). Web has evolved as people have added, modified and deleted documents.

Streaming data is data that is produced as a sequence. Information streams are important in

social media due to the important role of time. A number of corpus-query tools have been

developed for exploring the web as a corpus.

The lifestream is an ongoing sharing of personal information to a network audience.

Contextual phenomena such as seasons and holiday have an impact on the kind of online talk

used via media (such as a specific language for Valentine’s Day). Words varies depending on

time of day. Trending topics are a list of the latest keywords used with high frequency in

current posts, these trends are not long-term patterns but emphasize immediacy. Trending

topics help people discover the most breaking news stories from across the world. The

obstacles in building the HERMES corpus are:

Non-standard orthography: standard orthography and traditional text genres adapted to the

peculiarities of CMC discourse genres, for example punctuation within a word such as

exclamation point to represent the letter “i” (D!S 1 G!RL);

XML and escaped characters: many tweets are in language other than English, the main

problem is that many text editors and text-processing software are limited to working with

English text; this mean that when you meet text in other languages, the software will produce

characters such as question marks or other symbols in place of the correct characters. A

related problem is the intentional use of specific symbols in text by users (such as ♥️);

Emoticons and hashtags: depending on the configuration of the software used, some of the

characters used in emoticons are not considered valid letters for that system;

Abridged posts: Twitter users may avoid limiting their update to 140 characters by using a web

service to extend their message, the result is that some tweets appear in an abridged form in

the corpus. Alternatively, the tweet may contain punctuation indicating that it continues in a

subsequent tweet in the stream (FarmVille is bigger that Twit….);

The status of automated and re-broadcast material: any corpus of Twitter contain spam tweets,

that is automated tweets by non-humans. Depending on the intended use of the corpus, a

researcher may consider some or all of these tweets as noise.

The HERMES corpus contain over 100 million words and close to 7 million tweets. It was

collected using the Twitter streaming application programming interface (API). Developers can

use API to write custom applications that interface with Twitter’s data feeds. The API allows

developers to collect all tweets from accounts that are set to allow public access. The

multimodal representation of a tweet (layout, colour) is dependent on the mode of access to

the service. Linguists can make use of the API to build corpora that contain different kinds of

metadata of Twitter. This metadata provide contextual variables that offer complimentary

information in addition to considering the content of a micropost. Since Twitter is an

international service, tweets may be posted in different languages. If you have to build a

corpus you have to download all the unfiltered tweets from Twitter across a particular time-

window, separate the content of the tweets from other metadata, convert any entity sequences

(such as escaped characters) into their native form and filter the text so that it contains only

English tweets.

SFL (systemic functional linguists) put language as a meaning-making resource. As a method

for managing the multiple dimensions of language use, SFL stratifies language into phonology

(systems of sounds), lexicogrammar (systems of wording), discourse semantics (systems of

meaning) and context (genre and register); they are all related to each other. Language has

three simultaneous functions: an ideational function of represent experience, an interpersonal


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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in scienze della comunicazione
Università: Bergamo - Unibg
A.A.: 2018-2019

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher giuliaspeziale di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Lingua inglese II e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Bergamo - Unibg o del prof Ravizza Eleonora.

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