Being Negative to be Popular: Style in Online Comments at the Mail Online

Sutherland, S. 2020. Being Negative to be Popular: Style in Online Comments at the Mail Online. International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL). 8 (5), pp. 67-77. doi:10.20431/2347-3134.0805009

TitleBeing Negative to be Popular: Style in Online Comments at the Mail Online
TypeJournal article
AuthorsSutherland, S.
Abstract

Language users may make stylistic choices to signal group membership (Rampton 2002). The use of an aggregate of common linguistic features that are distinct from those of other groups of language users can be a sign of shared values in a linguistic ‘community of practice’ (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 1992). New members of such a community display their knowledge of the group’s practices, and thus their desire to be accepted as members of the community, by mimicking the language of more established members. The purpose of this research is to uncover stylistic features of a relatively new genre of text, online newspaper comments. This research argues that comments posted by readers of online newspapers provide us with the opportunity to both identify some shared stylistic features of a community of practice and to see how other readers evaluate the use of those features by deciding whether or not to approve or disapprove of the comments made. The top-rated comments from Mail Online newspaper articles with more than one thousand comments were collected over a period of one week, leading to a dataset of 65 comments that were analysed qualitatively using discourse analytic tools. The high number of approving votes for these comments suggests that other readers approve of their content and stylistic delivery. Previous studies (Anderson et al. 2014; Blom et al. 2014; Reagle 2015; Santana 2011) have suggested that online comments tend to be negative, but have said little about how the comments are realised or why there is a tendency to be negative. Based on the results of this analysis I argue that, through the use of common language choices (similar grammatical structures, little or no epistemic modality, implicature), commentators aim to accrue upvotes to validate themselves as core members of the Mail Online commentator community of practice.

Keywordsstyle
discourse
online
comments
newspaper
JournalInternational Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL)
Journal citation8 (5), pp. 67-77
ISSN2347-3126
Year2020
PublisherARC
Publisher's version
License
CC BY 4.0
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.20431/2347-3134.0805009
Web address (URL)https://www.arcjournals.org/international-journal-on-studies-in-english-language-and-literature/volume-8-issue-5/
Publication dates
Published28 May 2020

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