Neologisms in Social Media. A Corpus-Based Study of Institutionalization

Bachelor Thesis, 2017

41 Pages, Grade: 2,5

Vanessa Haldner (Author)


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Theoretical Framework
2.1 English in a Global Context -
2.2 Roswitha Fischer - "Lexical Change in Present-Day English"
2.2.1 The Concept of Neologisms
2.2.2 Motivation
2.2.3 Productivity
2.2.4 Institutionalization
2.3 Hypothesis

3 Practical Part
3.1 Data
3.2 Method

4 Results & Discussion
4.1 Results
4.2 Discussion

5 Conclusion



List of figures:

Figure 1: S-Curve pattern of institutionalization

Figure 2: Frequencies of the term Meme

Figure 3: Frequencies of the term Amazeballs

Figure 4: Frequencies of the term Douchey

Figure 5: Frequencies of the term Craptastic

Figure 6: Frequencies of the term Uptight

Figure 7: Frequencies of the term Janky

Figure 8: Frequencies of the term To Chillax

Figure 9: Frequencies of the term Eyeballing

Figure 10: Frequencies of the term To Sext

Figure 11: Frequencies of the term To Upcycle

Figure 12: Frequencies of the term To Vape

Figure 13: Frequencies of the term Vlog

Figure 14: Frequencies of the term Geotagging

Figure 15: Frequencies of the term Selfie

Figure 16: Frequencies of the term Webinar

Figure 17: Frequencies of the term Staycation

Figure 18: Frequencies of the term Bestie

Figure 19: Frequencies of the term Shitstorm

Figure 20: Frequencies of the term Phablet

Figure 21: Frequencies of the term Crowdsourcing

List of tables:

Table 1: Average frequencies of adjectives

Table 2: Average frequencies of verbs

Table 3: Average frequencies of nouns

Table 4: Definition of observed neologisms 29

1 Introduction

During various stages of our life we realize that our interests, habits, and topics change. Our biggest communicative strength, namely language, underlies the same process. We may not recognize it deliberately but from time to time we certainly come across terms which seem unfamiliar to us. These newly occurring terms that are gradually applied by speakers and identified as particular lexemes are called neologisms (cf. Hohenhaus 2005: 364). Neologisms are the result of language change (cf. Malec & Rusinek 2015: 150) which is divided by Jean Aitchison into two categories:

On the one hand, there are external sociolinguistic factors - that is, social factors outside the language system. On the other hand, there are internal psycholinguistic ones - that is, linguistic and psychological factors which reside in the structure of the language and the minds of the speakers (2013: 143).

One of the external sociolinguistic factors for language change is the influence of technology and the related digitalization (cf. Katamba 2005: 186). Those areas have rapidly grown in importance over the past few decades. Especially the associated social media platforms enjoy an increasing popularity worldwide. The internet-based platforms, allowing users to share content and communicate in different ways, count as one of the main sources of new terms. Through the extended usage and coverage of these platforms, the unknown terms may experience great support through the usage within the channels (cf. Page et al. 2014: 5). Since social media platforms are valued by so many users worldwide, the newly created words also have optimal opportunities for a maximum distribution beyond the borders of the speech community they originate from. This means, that not only one variety of English can benefit from the vocabulary expansion but all varieties can extend their lexicon. Therefore, the World Englishes, an expression that the scholar Schneider describes as "all or any varieties spoken around the world" (2011: 25), can be enriched with new terms. Moreover, current language has a variety of decisive channels, hence social platforms, that influence the steady language change. Of course, one would immediately think of Facebook and Twitter as globally popular driving forces.

However, before Facebook and Twitter were launched in 2004 and 2006 (cf. Guzzetti 2015: 611), weblogs, socalled blogs had been already introduced to internet users. Typically, the web-publishing tool allows the user to include texts, pictures and links (cf. Weber 2009: 167). They can be personal or professional. Although there are some variations, like, for example, photography blogs or blogs containing audiovisual data, the majority is text-based. Weblogs are considered to be "part of a wider network of social media" (ibid.). This indicates that blogs achieve a large coverage, beyond the community as well as beyond national boundaries. The first well-known blogs, Open

Diary, LiveJournal and Blogger were created in 1998 and 1999 (cf. Sheldon 2015: 125). Consequently, blogs were already part of the creation process of new words when the currently popular platforms only evolved. The study at hand has revealed that mostly Facebook- and Twitter-related neologisms, such as "unfriend" or "retweet" are observed but there is rarely work that is not related to specific online platforms. Furthermore, many scholars particularly deal with neologisms occurring in their national language use whereas there is little data on the global context of the English-speaking world. Against the backdrop, it would be interesting to observe to which extend blogger of the English-speaking world use neologisms in their posts.

Accordingly, the aim of this study is to investigate the institutionalization of neologisms in social media, more precisely in blogs, with a geographical view to the countries where English is the first or second official language. Especially since globalization and social media become increasingly integrated into our daily life, it is a phenomenon worth investigating. Neologisms belong to the process of word-formation; thus, this thesis belongs to the field of lexicology.

The structure of the work at hand is as follows. First, there will be a concise review on the relevant theory on World Englishes and the institutionalization process of neologisms. It should demonstrate the impact of language change. Further, the data source, the corpus of Global Web-based English1, will be described and the method used for the analysis will be explained. The following step includes the corpus analysis and inspects several neologisms regarding various categories. Afterwards, a presentation and evaluation of the results helps to assess the hypothesis. Lastly, a summary and interpretation of the findings concludes this thesis and gives an outlook on further research opportunities.

2 Theoretical Framework

In this abstract, two theories will be introduced which are relevant for the derivation of the hypothesis. The first theory by Braj Kachru (1985) demonstrates the fundamental aspects of language dissemination in a global context while the second theory by Roswitha Fischer (1998) deals with language change and particularly the institutionalization process in more detail.

2.1 English in a Global Context - "Three Circle Model"

English is a universal language: its remarkable status and spread are not comparable to other languages in human history. By means of globalization, it has not only become the language of international commerce and tourism but is also primary relevant for politics, education and media (cf. Kachru, Y. et al. 2008: 1). Through the geographical distribution, recognition and usage of English, many varieties emerged aside from Standard English2. In turn, these varieties introduce new forms of existing words or produce innovative terms.

The diffusion of English as a global language can give us information on how much influence varieties have on the institutionalization of new terms. To learn more about the impact, it is necessary to know how World Englishes are interconnected and what Three Circle Model counts as one of the most influential interpretations (cf. Saraceni 2015: 45). In his work Standards, Codification and Sociolinguistic Realism: The English Language in the Outer Circle from 1985, Kachru discusses non-native varieties of English, paying special attention to their emergence and the overall diffusion of the English language. (Kachru 1985/ 2015: 154).

The b is the fundamental questioning of Standard

English. At the time Kachru released his arguments, some even talked about the postcolonial distribution of the language as a "phase of decontrol" as Kachru describes (cf. ibid.). Hence, the scholar s classification of the varieties aimed to clarify the status of English.

Kachru explains the spread of English with the help of three concentric circles. Each circle stands for "the type of spread, the patterns of acquisition and the functional domains in which English is used across cultures and languages" (ibid.). The inner circle3 displays the traditional origin of the English language, as it was carried by English speakers from Great Britain to North America, the anglophone part of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In these countries, English enjoys the status of the primary language (cf. ibid.). The inner circle is said to be norm-providing; hence it sets requirements and standards. Here, Braj Kachru mentions that the status of the varieties is in dispute. There is disagreement over which standard counts as the standard-setting model (cf. ibid.: 160). What follows is the outer circle which contains countries where English mainly has the status of a second language. The imperial expansion of inner circle varieties effected the regions belonging to the outer circle. There, English is one of two or more spoken languages. Often, it has the status of the lingua franca and can be found in higher education, governmental issues and legislation. Besides, Kachru explains that English in outer circle varieties even "has developed nativized literary traditions" (ibid.: 155). This category is norm-developing what implies that certain standards are already adapted and the speech community is at a level where it creates new forms autonomously. Kachru describes it as being both: endonormative and exonormative (cf. ibid.: 160). The expanding circle refers to countries where English is the language of international communication. However, it has no colonial history or background with the inner circle varieties (cf. ibid.: 156). Such countries are China, Russia or Germany, for example. Kachru terms this circle as norm-dependent since it follows the standards set by the inner circle. Thus, it is exclusively exonormative (cf. ibid.: 160). However, Braj Kachru recognizes that the outer and expanding circle have fuzzy boundaries, so, they cannot be completely separated. This is primary based on changing language policies of the different countries (cf. ibid.: 156).

To sum up the main aspects Three Circle Model categorizes the English- speaking world accordingly to the specific status the language has among its speech community. Thus, countries belonging to the inner circle count English as their first In the following, the expressions inner, outer and expanding circle always refer to the model by Kachru. language. The countries that are part of the outer circle use English as the second official language, it has a special status and is oftentimes also the lingua franca. The countries Kachru denotes as members of the expanding circle mainly use English for intercultural communication in business contexts. While the countries of the inner and outer circle are connected through their historical background one could say that, based the rest of the world is part of the expanding circle.

However, the status of the language in the countries has changed over time. English has significantly gained in importance over the last three decades and therefore, the boundaries between the outer and the expanding circle are not obvious anymore. Nevertheless, Kachru clearly demonstrates the geographical distribution of the English language over time.

2.2 Roswitha Fischer - "Lexical Change in Present-Day English"

In her book "Lexical Change in Present-Day English ! A Corpus-Based Study of the Motivation, Institutionalization, and Productivity of Creative Neologisms" the scholar Roswitha Fischer deals with the institutionalization process of neologisms. First, she explains the relevant keywords to give an overview on the field. Further, she elaborates on different types of creative neologisms. The third part consists of an empirical analysis that should provide an insight on the actual process of institutionalization and the connections between motivation, spreading and productivity. For this research subject matter, the first and the last part of her work are relevant.

2.2.1 The Concept of Neologisms

Roswitha Fischer defines neologisms in lexicographical fields as words that are not included in a dictionary of Standard English and thus, count as new (cf. 1998: 3). She uses the terms "new words" and neologisms synonymously (cf. ibid.: 7). Further, she argues that there are two main aspects that must be considered when lexicographers categorize terms as neologisms and decide to include them in the dictionary. First, there must be a stable frequency of the word over a period of time. Second, the word must be broadly distributed in different contexts and communicative situations (cf. ibid.: 3f.).

Fischer separates neologisms from nonce-formations4 by stating that nonce- formations "are spontaneously coined and they are rarely used" (ibid.: 5). As a next step, a nonce-formation can turn into a neologism, as the scholar states: "Therefore, a neologism is a word which has lost its status of a nonce-formation but is still one which is considered new by the majority of the members of a speech community." (ibid.: 3). Lastly, she clarifies that the formation of a neologism is a diachronic process which suggests that the neologism passes different stages until it becomes an entry in a dictionary (cf. ibid.: 6).

2.2.2 Motivation

Roswitha Fischer claims that motivation in a word-formation context are circumstances which serve as a basis for a new word form. The circumstances can be divided into extralingual and lingual ones whereas extralingual refers to cognitive or social circumstances and lingual refers to those on linguistic levels, e.g. morphological conditions. (cf. ibid.: 13).

The author declares that there are six types of motivation which can be recognized in certain word-formation processes. The first type is phonetic motivation where the relation between the meaning of the word and the phonetic form is unconventional. An example is onomatopoeia5 (cf. ibid.). Secondly, there is phonological motivation. Fischer describes something as phonologically motivated if certain sounds are chosen to be used with regard to pronunciation, as in INSET which stands for in-service-training (cf. ibid). Graphic motivation deals with the written discourse and counts as the third type of motivation. Here, a certain written form is established to facilitate the understanding of the word meaning, e.g. through the usage of a hyphen in the word sit- com. This type often overlaps with phonological motivation (cf. ibid.). Fourth, Fischer talks about morphological motivation. It occurs when a word "can be broken down into its constituents and the meaning of its constituents reveals the meaning of the word" (ibid.: 14). The fifth category revolves around semantically motivated words, such as metaphors and metonymies. Semantic motivation can be observed when a word is based on both, the phonological and the graphical meaning (cf. ibid). The sixth and last type Fischer talks about is stylistic motivation which is marked by figures of speech. An example would be back-to-basics (cf. ibid.).

Finally, Fischer mentions that the different types of motivation can appear in combination with each other, such as in Yuppie which is motivated in three ways: phonologically, graphically, and semantically (cf. ibid.).

2.2.3 Productivity

To define productivity, Fischer introduces Bauer's (1983: 66) and Pennanen's (1972: 295) concept that describes it as the speaker's qualification to create and comprehend new words. She mentions that producing new terms goes hand in hand with being creative and thus, creativity cannot strictly be distinguished from productivity (Fischer 1998: 17).

Regarding the word-formation process, the author assumes that it is difficult to separate analogous coining and coinages based on word-formation rules. Roswitha Fischer sees a possible differentiation linked to formal characteristics: "Where a productive element occurs in the new coining (including the morpho-phonological processes), an analogous form has been stimulated by some other form but does not contain it. " (ibid.).

Further, she claims that productivity is a real-time process. The documentation of a word-forming item, e.g. an affix or a suffix, at a certain period of time provides insight about its productivity from a synchronic perspective (ibid.: 17f.).

Moreover, Fischer names three ways of measuring productivity. First, one could look at a particular affix and contrast it with the structure of the base (cf. ibid.: 18). Second, preparing word lists with possible word combinations could quantify productivity (cf. ibid.). Lastly, elicitation texts could serve the same purpose (cf. ibid.).

2.2.4 Institutionalization

Roswitha Fischer describes institutionalization as the process where a new term turns into a fixed component of a speec ] $' *++<: 15). According to her, the process applies to standard English as well as to its varieties which makes it possible that analogous institutionalized forms can be found (cf. ibid.: 16). Also, she claims that institutionalization is a slow development and thus, there are words that are "more or less institutionalized" (ibid.: 15).

Fischer places special emphasis on an explanation made by the scholar Bartsch.

Renate Bartsch claims that the usage of a word by a speech community that represents the ruling political and economic class supports the institutionalization process. Besides, the process takes place faster if the word appears in written documents. Another suggestion made by Bartsch is that the items used in a multi-variety area become institutionalized faster (cf. 1985: 26). Still, those factors could only influence the development of the item if a sufficient distribution already had been preceded (Fischer 1998.: 16).

Further, the author points out that institutionalization must be separated from the concept of topicality. The idea includes words that occur in connection to a certain event and that are only used over a short period of time. In contrast, institutionalized terms are the result of an "increasing frequency within a longer period of time" (ibid.). The process itself is described as a S-curve, as seen in Figure 1 below (cf. ibid.: 174). Fischer describes that the almost unknown term is introduced among a speech community in the initial stage (cf. ibid.) Then, topicality may increase the usage. The lexeme could now be used in articles or even as a topic. This is the actual starting point of institution _ % distribution successively rises (cf. ibid.). As the topicality reaches its peak, the term is said to be well-known (cf. ibid.). Afterwards, the curve shows a decrease which would imply the end of the institutionalization process (cf. ibid.).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: S-Curve pattern of institutionalization, retrieved from Fischer (1998: 174).

One of the main sections of Fischer's book consists of an empirical analysis on the institutionalization process. Fischer aims to investigate to which extend motivation, productivity and institutionalization are interconnected and which other factors might play a significant role in the process (cf. ibid.: 171). The data she used for her study was taken from the British newspaper The Guardian from 1990-1996, and the American newspaper The Miami Herald from 1992. Fischer decided to use the two corpora in order to represent national standards of British and American English (cf. ibid.: 2). The conclusion to focus on newspapers as data sources is justified by explaining that the news language journalese counts as an own register and hence, has a high informative value for Fischer's research topic (cf. ibid.: 68). Journalese consists of three different levels: the language standard, the language of journalism and the written language level. Fischer argues:

As a result of the diverse influence, the language of the media has an effect upon the introduction of new word-formations into the standard language. Many new word-formations are first made available to the general public through the press. (ibid.)

The main focus of her corpus analysis lays on the examination of the frequency of selected coinages over a period of time. She selected neologisms that arose during the 1990s, including shortenings, blends, clippings, lexical phrases and combinations. The s results summarize the aspects that interact in the overall process of institutionalization and illustrates the striking features that also play a role (cf. ibid.: 171).

First of all, frequency is said to be "the safest measure for institutionalization" (ibid.: 172). It means in fact that the process is currently taking place or has already been finished if a word occurs with a higher frequency over a longer period of time (cf. ibid.). However, a low number would not automatically signalize that the item has not been affected by institutionalization. Roswitha Fischer points out that one always has to take a look at the history of the term: to deliver respectable information on the institutionalization process, the author recommends the examination of a less frequent word over a period of twenty to thirty years (cf. ibid.: 173). In addition, she states that the topicality of a new term also influences the frequency levels: "It can be recognized when the lexeme appears as the theme for an article. As a result, the lexeme may multiply the number of times it is named within texts" (ibid.). Consequently, the recurrence would decrease simultaneously to the topicality. There is also another factor that provides information about the institutionalization process. The author assumes that it is meaningful how much information is given regarding the meaning of the new lexeme. In written discourse, the extent of the reference tells us at which stage the lexeme currently is. This can be primarily noticed through the use of paraphrases or reformulations. Based on her observations, Fischer claims that, in general, there are detailed descriptions of the meaning during the first stage of the institutionalization process. In the middle stage, there would be short explanations while no hints to the meaning would mark the end of institutionalization (cf. ibid.: 176ff.). Other than that, co-existing expressions are said to have an influence on the process. According to the author, institutionalization could be impeded if a speech community prefers one form over the other. Relevant determinants for the preferences are e.g. structural complexity, length, or pronounceability. Thus, one can say that the simple, short, and melodic words will be favored (cf. ibid.: 178f.). Fischer also dealt with motivation as a possible factor. However, she found out that motivation itself is a dependent variable. As reported by her, it depends on the kind of motivation of a word-pattern. She generalizes that shortness, simplicity and transparency may serve as "a good starting point for the institutionalization process to begin" (ibid.: 179ff.). Looking at productivity, Roswitha Fischer argues that it influences the process in a positive way, especially when transparency and a simple structure are given. Combinations are said to indicate productivity whereas shortenings and phrases are less significant (cf. ibid.: 180f.).


1 In the following abbreviated with GloWbE.

2 Standard English is the dialect of government, law, literacy, education, and the dialect which is taught to foreigners (cf. Thomas & Wareign 2012: 135).

3 In the following, the expressions inner, outer and expanding circle always refer to the model by Kachru.

4 "A linguistic form which a speaker consciously invents or accidentally uses on a single occasion" (Crystal 2011: 329).

5 An expression that describes words imitating sounds and their meaning (cf. Denham & Lobeck 2012: 294).

Excerpt out of 41 pages


Neologisms in Social Media. A Corpus-Based Study of Institutionalization
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Anglistik)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1453 KB
Neologisms, Social Media, Corpus, Corpus Analysis, GloWbE, Web-based, Blogs, Blogosphere, New Words, Lingusitic, Braj Kachru, Three Circle Model, World Englishes
Quote paper
Vanessa Haldner (Author), 2017, Neologisms in Social Media. A Corpus-Based Study of Institutionalization, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Neologisms in Social Media. A Corpus-Based Study of Institutionalization

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free