Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Center for the Study of Language and Society

Flemish online teenage talk: new and old vernacular and their social correlates

Dienstag, 06.11.2018, 18:15 Uhr

Das Forum Language and Society ist eine Reihe von Gastvorträgen zu Themen der Soziolinguistik. Doktorierende der GSH können sich die Teilnahme als Zuhörende mit 0,25 ECTS pro Vortrag anrechnen lassen.

Veranstaltende: Forum Language and Society
Redner, Rednerin: Prof. Dr. Reinhild Vandekerckhove, University of Antwerp
Datum: 06.11.2018
Uhrzeit: 18:15 - 19:45 Uhr
Ort: F-121
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Merkmale: Öffentlich

Linguistic practices in written informal computer-mediated communication (CMC) challenge the operationalisation of standard and especially non-standard language, not only because CMC led to a “pluralisation” and “localisation” of written language norms, but also because it requires the inclusion of a linguistic level that until recently had largely remained beyond the scope of sociolinguistic research, i.e. spelling and “visual variability” (Androutsopoulos 2011: 151-155).  Informal CMC deviates from formal standard writing both through the integration of substandard spoken language features and through the presence of typical characteristics of online writing. Therefore Androutsopoulos (2011: 146) differentiates between respectively old and new vernacular.


In my lecture I’ll discuss social and to a minor extent regional variation patterns in informal CMC produced by Flemish adolescents aged 13-20 on social media like WhatsApp and Facebook.

The linguistic variables in our research include a wide range of ‘non-standard’ markers and the social variables comprise age, gender and education (and by extension also parental profession). While ‘non-standardness’ clearly correlates with all of these social variables, the analyses show that, first of all, the social variables should not be analysed in isolation, and, second, the set of non-standard markers needs to be declustered into several subsets. With respect to the first finding, especially age and gender appear to correlate strongly and systematically.  As to the second finding: the distinction between old and new vernacular appears to be useful, but even then, within new vernacular a more subtle differentiation is needed in order to capture social differences adequately. 

I’ll end with an example of what could be called ‘new old vernacular’ to demonstrate that there is still room for regional differentiation and innovation in media that are highly receptive to global trends.




Androutsopoulos, Jannis (2011): Language change and digital media.  A review of conceptions and evidence.  In: Kristiansen & Coupland (eds.), Standard Languages and Language Standards in a Changing Europe, 145-159. Oslo: Novus Press


De Decker, Benny & Reinhild Vandekerckhove (2017): Global features of online communication in local Flemish: social and medium-related determinants. In: Folia Linguistica 51/1, 253-281.


Hilte, Lisa, Reinhild Vandekerckhove & Walter Daelemans (in press): Social media writing and social class: a correlational analysis of adolescent CMC and social background.  In: International Journal of Society, Culture and Language.


Hilte Lisa, Reinhild Vandekerckhove & Walter Daelemans (in preparation): Modeling adolescents’ online writing practices: the sociolectometry of non-standard writing on social media.  (Will be submitted for special issue of Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik).