Department of Anthropology

Verbal artistry in building a youth chat room community: leet speak, language play and multilingual resources.

Karin Aronsson*, Professor, Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University

Fri, December 6, 2013 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

This talk discusses ways in which chat room participants in a Swedish youth chat room deploy leet speak and other hybrid language forms (including code switches, Swenglish, "Swedish Deutsch" and other multilingual resources).  The focus is on the ways in which such hybrid forms are deployed by the participants as part of their local formation of a net community. The detailed analyses draw on recordings of approximately 30 hours of chat room talk.

The data document a rich use of invented spelling and various other hybrid forms, related to leet speak (e.g. switches between lower and upper case letters or numbers, as well as other types of creative spelling). Novel varieties of text compressions are other features of leet speak. But above all, code switching, as well as reduplications and capital letters are deployed as ways of accentuating (Bakhtin, 1981; Stanislavskij, 1986) various stances in conversations, for instance, when making assessments about style or performance or when commenting on technical issues (e.g. NEWbies’ for newcomers or inexperienced participants; ‘lagggggggggggggg’ for time 'lag'). 

The analyses focus on verbal artistry (Bauman & Briggs, 1990)and community building, and especially the ways that leet speak and other hybrid language varieties (e.g. crossings, Rampton, 1999; 2009) are deployed as ways of forming local alignments and disalignments. The chat room conversations show that the participants position themselves as central participants through this type of everyday poetics. This can be seen in ongoing conversations, as well as when participants enter or leave the forum. Greetings and leave takings are extended affairs where the participants revel in embellishing their language through novel varieties of crossings, code switches, creative spelling (e.g. ‘heiiii’ instead of Swedish ‘hej’ for ‘hi’) and other hybrid language forms.

The hybrid constructions and verbal artistry can be seen as instances of creative improvisations (Duranti & Black, 2012) where participants align and disalign with each other through various accentuations of talk.

*in collaboration with Jeanette Sjöberg



For further information please contact Adriana Dingman at

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