Playful language alternation in an online discussion forum: the example of digital code plays

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Jaworska, Sylvia (2014)

This paper explores the linguistic practice of digital code plays in an online discussion forum, used by the community of English-speaking Germans living in Britain. By adopting a qualitative approach of Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis, the article examines the ways in which these bilinguals deploy linguistic and other semiotic resources on the forum to co-construct humorous code plays. These performances occur in the context of negotiating language norms and are based on conscious manipulations of both codes, English and German. They involve play with codes at three levels: play with forms, meanings, and frames. Although, at first sight, such alternations appear to be used mainly for a comic effect, there is more to this than just humour. By mixing both codes at all levels, the participants deliberately produce aberrant German ‘polluted’ with English and, in so doing, dismantle the ideology of language purity upheld by the purist movement. The deliberate character of this type of code alternation demonstrates heightened metalinguistic awareness as well as creativity and criticality. By exploring the practice of digital code plays, the current study contributes to the growing body of research on networked multilingualism as well as to practices associated with translanguaging, poly- and metrolingualism.
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