Prosody and paralanguage in speech and the social media: The vocal and graphic realisation of affective meaning

Allan James


The study of prosody and paralanguage is in the first place concerned – unsurprisingly – with the phonetic and linguistic effects of non-segmental vocal variation expressed as values of the feature systems of pitch, volume and duration, but also of rhythm and tempo and further of voice qualities, etc. However, in more recent times the emergence of digitally mediated written communication (in the ‘new’ social media) has led attention to the role of prosody and paralanguage in defining the characteristic informal interpersonal style of this new ‘typed conversation.’ The present article reviews the formal and functional essence of prosody and paralanguage and, drawing on data from recent corpora of text messaging and microblogging, analyses the extents to which prosodic and paralinguistic features may be reflected in such discourse, in particular the ways in which affective meaning is expressed in the graphic modality of this medium.


paralanguage, prosody, speech, writing, social media

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Copyright (c) 2017 Allan James

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Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts
(Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani) 

Print ISSN: 0024-3922
Online ISSN: 2350-420X