Persuasive communication

Centre for Language Studies | Faculty of Arts | Radboud University Nijmegen

Call for Abstracts: CLS Language & Social Media day

CLS Language & Social Media day: Thursday 15 June 2017

OPEN CALL to present your ongoing research on language and social media

The goal of the CLS Language & Social Media day is to bring together researchers from different groups or disciplines working on the topic of language and social media and share their work. All researchers (not limited to those based in Nijmegen) are invited to present their ongoing research on language and social media. First of all, this day will give us insight into what colleagues are working on. More importantly, it will allow us to benefit from each other’s knowledge and obtain different perspectives on similar theoretical or methodological issues, which can further our understanding of language in social media.

The CLS Language & Social Media day will include short oral presentations, a poster session, and two keynotes: Reinheild Vandekerckhove (University of Antwerp) & Rodney Jones (University of Reading).

All oral presentations will be plenary, organized to promote discussion across the disciplines. Moreover, there will be plenty of opportunity throughout the day to discuss research in an informal setting. Attending without presenting is, of course, also possible — for more information see below. (Research) master students are also welcome to present!

Abstract submission

The abstract should present an empirical study on language and social media (e.g. Twitter, WhatsApp, text messages, instant messages, blogs, etc.). The abstract should not exceed 500 words and should be sent as a Word document to by 30 April 2017. Please indicate whether you would like to give an oral presentation or present a poster. The subject of the message should be Abstract Submission Language & Social Media. The conference language is English.


The symposium will include lunch and drinks and is open to everyone. It will feature two interesting guest speakers. To register, please fill in the registration form before Tuesday 30 May on

And check out our Facebook event:

Lieke Verheijen, Eric Sanders, Florian Kunneman, Nelleke Oostdijk, and Lidwien v.d. Wijngaert

Abstracts keynotes

Reinhild Vandekerckhove (University of Antwerp – CLiPS research group)

Old gender patterns in new media? Gender markers and their opposites in Flemish online teenage talk

Gender seems to be the only social variable that has been operationalized quite frequently in research on computer-mediated communication (CMC). However, much of the research is rather fragmentary through its focus on a limited number of features. The present paper hopes to demonstrate that the inclusion of a wide range of features with divergent communicative functions is a safeguard against overgeneralization and simplification of gender patterns.

We focus on two sets of features: First, we include a range of typical CMC-features that cover functional-economic strategies, predominantly playful features and expressive markers. Strikingly, only the expressive markers appear to display strong gender correlates (see De Decker & Vandekerckhove 2017, Hilte et al. 2016). The latter suggests that old gender patterns are reproduced in new media: the importance of the connective dimension in women’s discourse has been stressed time and again in pragmatic and sociolinguistic research in the past decades (see e.g. Tannen 1990, Holmes 1995).

The expression of social and emotional involvement in interaction has often been described in terms of ‘positive politeness’, while linguistic practices that are meant to avoid face-threatening behaviour are considered evidence of ‘negative politeness’. Expressive markers clearly belong to the first category. Hedges and politeness markers, however, were stereotypically linked to the latter endeavour (and to female interaction), though not uncontestedly so: e.g. Holmes (1995) sees them as tokens of positive concern and friendship. That is why we included these discourse markers in our analyses too: do they display the same gender patterns as the expressive markers? And what are the overall implications for gender in young adolescents’ online communication?

The data analyses are based on two extensive corpora of Flemish informal online teenage talk. For the CMC-features we relied on an ‘older’ corpus of chat conversations produced between 2007 and 2013 (more than 2 million tokens). The hedges and politeness markers were analysed in a more recent chat corpus (2015-2016, more than 3.5 million tokens).

De Decker, Benny & Reinhild Vandekerckhove (2017): Global features of online communication in local Flemish: social and medium-related determinants. In: Folia Linguistica (in press).

Hilte, Lisa, Reinhild Vandekerckhove & Walter Daelemans (2016): Expressiveness in Flemish online teenage talk: A corpus-based analysis of social and medium-related linguistic variation. In: Darja Fiser & Michael Beisswenger (eds.), Proceedings of the 4th Conference on CMC and Social Media Corpora for the Humanities, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 27-28 September 2016, pp. 30-33.

Holmes, Janet (1995): Women, men and politeness. London: Longman.

Tannen, Deborah (1990): You just don’t understand. Women and men in conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.


Rodney Jones (University of Reading)

Action, meaning and the ‘pragmatic web’

Much attention has been paid to the potential of the ‘semantic web’– a set of protocols that allow for meanings to be shared across different platforms and systems of encoding in the form of semantically structured knowledge — for enhancing the ability for our machines to ‘talk’ to each other. Less attention has been paid to the development of what has been called the ‘pragmatic web’, which consists of networks of tools, protocols and agents (both human and algorithmic) that interact to make and interpret meanings through actions. Whereas meaning in the semantic web is a matter of relations between signs, meaning in the pragmatic web is created through relations between actions and the contexts within those actions are taking.

In many ways, advances in creating a ‘pragmatic web’ have outstripped efforts to create a ‘semantic web’, a fact seen most clearly in the various algorithms that monitor the actions of users (such as clicks and swipes) and transform them into inferences about the kinds of content they wish to be fed or the kinds of products they want to buy – algorithms that are at the heart of search engines like Google, recommender systems like that used by, and filtering systems like Facebook’s EdgeRank which determines which updates appear on users’ newsfeeds and in what order. In all of these systems, meaning is created not though the semantic relationship between signs, by through the incremental actions of human users and the computer algorithms that monitor them.

The rise of the pragmatic web introduces challenges to scholars of pragmatics and discourse analysis, forcing us to rethink fundamental principles of meaning and interaction, including how implicature is created, how inferences are formed, the role of context in assigning meaning to action, and what constitutes a ‘speech act’ to begin with. All pragmatic theories are essentially ‘algorithmic’, in that they set forth protocols for making sense of what people say and do. The way computers are able to engage in these processes, however, is very different from the way humans are. Inferences formed by computer algorithms, for example, are governed by the logic of correlation rather than the logic of causation (which lies at the foundation of Gricean and neo-Gricean models). Furthermore, events and contexts within the pragmatic web are linked in ways that are not in analogue contexts, and the actions upon which inferences are formed are entextualized and aggregated in ways that are not possible in face to face communication between human agents.

This paper explores the ways digital communication involving networks of human and non-human agents is changing how we study pragmatics, and the implications for this on how we understand the social and ethical aspects of computer mediated communication.

Schoop, M., de Moor, A. & Dietz, J.L.G. (2006): The pragmatic web: A manifesto. Communication of the ACM 49(5): 75-6.

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