Accepted paper:

Ironic language play on Bulgarian Facebook


Cammeron Girvin (UC Berkeley)

Paper short abstract:

My paper shows how Bulgarian Facebook users ironically employ conservative or “traditional” linguistic forms in order to highlight their own “progressive” offline identity.

Paper long abstract:

The website Facebook serves as a platform for users to broadcast various aspects of their personal identity. In my paper, I show how Bulgarian users of the site ironically employ linguistic styles that would ordinarily mark them as "traditional" or "conservative" in an effort to show that they are "progressive" and "Westernized." For example, some users write with nonstandard orthography that mimics rural Bulgarian dialects. One Green Party activist spells her vowels to reflect the Western Bulgarian accent of her hometown rather than that of the standard language; in the same post, however, she uses English transliterated into Cyrillic to show that she is, in fact, educated and worldly. Play with Bulgarian folk language occurs particularly often when the thematic content of a user's post describes decidedly "modern" material. In one case, well-wishers congratulate a man on the announcement of his upcoming marriage to another man with sentiments in the form of proverbs traditionally used to wish health to a bride. These commenters employ linguistic forms that originally served to support the "traditional" family unit in order to express their excitement about a "non-traditional" form of marriage. Overall, such ironic Facebook posts reflect an interesting hybridity in language and form, as topics taken to be "modern" are discussed using "traditional" language. Users may see themselves as progressive and, perhaps, different from the typical Bulgarian citizen offline, but they employ linguistic forms on Facebook that are seen as being characteristic of the "folk" in order to highlight this very fact.

panel P19
Circulating social worlds in polymedia