• Morten Flensborg Iversen
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
In this master’s thesis, I examine how words are imbued with meaning. The words or linguistic forms I focus on are ‘gay’, ‘faggot’, ‘fag’ as well as the phrase ‘that’s so gay’. I examine the use of these linguistic forms in online communication on Reddit and I discuss their use and the sentiments behind, in order to explain how these specific linguistic forms, become imbued with meaning(s). Furthermore, I will discuss the link between meaning and intention, perception, context, social value and the effect of in-group/out-group. Finally, I will compare my results to previous research about the same topic. In order to come to terms with meaning in words I use several sociolinguistic and anthropological theories as a stepping stone to my analysis. Most significant I use Agha and Silverstein and their con-cepts of enregisterment and indexicality as these theories provide me with extensive insight into the imbuing of meanings and the effect the social value of groups has on defining meaning. Concerning Silverstein’s levels of indexicality I propose that we see the act of reclaiming (Fasoli et al. 2019) as a new and fourth level, as it is a concept that permeates throughout my entire dataset and thus an im-portant factor to change in meaning. In order to distinguish the concepts and effects of in-group/out-group I use Carnaghi & Maass’s (2007) study about category group labels (CGL) such as ‘gay’ ver-sus derogatory group labels (DGL) such as ‘fag’ in in-groups and out-groups. This brings relevance to my comparison of three subreddits with different attitudes towards homosexuality and members of LGBT. In lines with this I use the works of McCormack et al. (2011, 2012, 2016) and his definitions of gay-discourse, specifically homophobia and pro-gay language. This helps shed light on my senti-ment analysis of the results. Furthermore, when I discuss the concept of reclaiming, I take my inspira-tion from Fasoli et al. (2019) and Silverstein’s levels of indexicality. Based on my results I found that the use of these linguistic forms shows an image that falls short of McCormack et al.’s (2012, 2016) claim that homophobia is declining. My results indicate a varied use of the linguistic forms that follow Robinson’s (2012) and Lalor & Rendle-Short’s (2007) ‘gay’ = lame and neutral/negative use, but with a majority in the negative use as well as a firm belief that asso-ciating ‘gay’ with anything bad is homophobic. Moreover, my results tell of a wish by members of LGBT of reclaiming DGL for themselves as this will alter their negative connotations and index them with positive connotations. However, this is followed by an issue that finds this possible to in-groups users only which leaves it remaining negative to out-group users. Finally, my results show that these words have many different meanings, connotations and registers, but that these depend on intention, perception, context and social value. Arguments flow from believing that if the intent is negative then the word is negative, to believing that negative connotations only appear if you perceive it as such, to believing that the context constitutes the meanings of linguistic forms and to arguing about the effect that the social value of different groups has on the meanings of words which follows Agha’s (2003) enregisterment. A word can have different registers depending on the social value of the social group. Meanings are not a definite concept; it changes all the time, and this study brought about a confor-mation of this. There is not one factor that causes words to be imbued with meaning, there are many factors, most importantly the intention behind the utterance, the perception of said utterance, the regis-ter knowledge and alignment between speakers, the social value of social groups and the context in which the utterance is said, all this matters to the meanings of linguistic forms and all this changes the meanings of linguistic forms.
Publication date2 Jun 2020
Number of pages75
ID: 333431475