LINGUIST List 26.5035

Wed Nov 11 2015

Diss: English, Pragmatics: Daria Dayter: 'Discursive self in microblogging: speech acts, stories and self-praise'

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 11-Nov-2015
From: Daria Dayter <>
Subject: Discursive self in microblogging: speech acts, stories and self-praise
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Institution: Universität Bayreuth
Program: Department of English Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2014

Author: Daria Dayter

Dissertation Title: Discursive self in microblogging: speech acts, stories and self-praise

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Susanne Mühleisen

Dissertation Abstract:

This monograph reports a linguistic study of 11 Twitter accounts belonging to Anglophone users, all of whom belong to a diffuse discourse community of ballet enthusiasts. The study investigates the pragmalinguistic aspects of in-group language use, namely the speech act repertoire and the discursive strategies of identity construction within the community. The focus is on self-presentation and self-disclosure in speech. The study also sheds light on the comparatively new and under-researched online mode of microblogging, which is currently the fastest growing social networking system on the net, with 1 billion tweets per day. The corpus for the study comprises 1,000 tweets, approx. 20,000 tokens, stratified for gender and balanced for interactivity patterns. The theoretical basis is formed by the discursive psychological work on self-disclosure and linguistic theory of discursive identity construction. The theory of self-disclosure is operationalized with the help of the findings of speech act research on compliments, praise and complaints. Discursive identity construction is investigated through the lens of the acts of positioning and of narrative theory.

The corpus was manually annotated in accordance with a pragmatic annotation scheme developed specifically for this study. The annotation scheme includes three levels: tweet level, utterance level, and topic of positioning, plus an extra layer of complementary tagging for structural features such as Twitter nicknames, hashtags and hyperlinks.

The findings can be grouped into three categories. The first one concerns the specific disclosive speech acts. It was established that subjects frequently resort to self-praise, explicit as well as implicit, which appears to be appropriate in this context despite the earlier claims to the contrary in the literature. Self-praising turns received overwhelmingly supportive uptake or no uptake at all; no critical uptake occurred in the corpus. Third party complaints, i.e. complaints to an addressee who is neither responsible for the grievance itself nor for remedying it, emerged as an important means of disclosing laudable facts about the speaker. Finally, positive self-disclosure accounted for a large part of the stories in the corpus, which were performed as one of three narrative types: Traditional Narrative, Tiny Story, or Delayed Resolution Narrative.

The second group of findings concerns the discursive identity construction and the crucial role of shared values in it. The analysis demonstrated that self-disclosure is intended to paint an image of the speaker as a ballet hero. A ballet hero is an idealised figure who possesses enough attributes of a genuine ballet dancer, including ballet apparel, skill, and character traits. The disjunction between the offline and online identity arms the Twitter users with the tools to construct a virtual image by highlighting some aspects of their life and backgrounding the others.

The third group of findings concerns the contradiction between two parts of speech act repertoire and two pools of linguistic features associated with them. It appears that although subjects devote much of their communication to self-presentation as a ballet hero through self-praise, personal narrative and disclosive third party complaints, another common behaviour is affiliative. It involves supportive comments, second stories, appeals for advice, warrants for self-disclosure and direct praise. This duality is construed as two interpretive repertoires, an ‘ego repertoire’ and a ‘member of community repertoire’.

Page Updated: 11-Nov-2015