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Elena Lathrop Sociology, B.A. University of California, Los Angeles

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1 Elena Lathrop Sociology, B.A. University of California, Los Angeles
THE LANGUAGE BEHIND Elena Lathrop Sociology, B.A. University of California, Los Angeles INTERNET MEMES

2 WHAT IS A MEME? From the Ancient Greek work “mimɛma” meaning “something imitated” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” On the Internet, they take the form of concepts that spread, such as images, videos, hyperlinks, acronyms, or even ironically misspelled words/typos such as “teh” instead of “the” or “pwn” instead of “own” In this presentation, I will focus on images coupled with text

3 EXAMPLES

4 WHAT TYPES OF LINGUISTIC PHENOMENA DO THESE INTERNET MEMES EXHIBIT?
They are extremely productive – there are over 75,000 categories of image memes, with new categories being created daily Category-specific: Recursion Garden path sentences Syntactic structures mimicking child speech

5 THE “XZIBIT YO DAWG” MEME - RECURSION
Also called the “Recursive Xzibit” meme on some websites

6 THE “XZIBIT YO DAWG” MEME - RECURSION
Clauses can be embedded within sentences to obtain recursion Theoretically, this can be done infinitely Ex.: I said that Mary told Suzy that John said […] The “Xzibit Yo Dawg” meme demonstrates adjunct recursion

7 THE “XZIBIT YO DAWG” MEME - RECURSION

8 THE “XZIBIT YO DAWG” MEME - RECURSION

9 THE “SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN” MEME – GARDEN PATH SENTENCES
Meant to seem racist and stereotypical, until one reads the entire sentence from top to bottom

10 THE “SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN” MEME – GARDEN PATH SENTENCES
Example: The horse raced past the barn fell. Upon hearing this sentence, the speaker wants to insert a period after “barn”, yielding this structure:

11 THE “SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN” MEME – GARDEN PATH SENTENCES
…but with the word fell at the end of the sentence, The horse raced past the barn is a reduced relative clause (it does not contain a who or that) and the theme of the action fall Sounds awkward and ungrammatical to most native speakers, but is actually grammatically correct

12 THE “SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN” MEME – GARDEN PATH SENTENCES
My father left us.

13 THE “SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN” MEME – GARDEN PATH SENTENCES
My father left us a large estate […]

14 THE “Y U NO GUY” MEME – CHILD SPEECH

15 THE “Y U NO GUY” MEME – CHILD SPEECH
Brain, why don’t you work?

16 THE “Y U NO GUY” MEME – CHILD SPEECH
Brain, why you no work? English sentence lacking do-support, and therefore no head (T to C) movement

17 THE “Y U NO GUY” MEME – CHILD SPEECH
This resembles the speech of English language learners aged 1-4 (Brown 1968, Bellugi 1971, Stromswold 1990, Guasti & Rizzi 1996) They tend to leave out auxiliaries such as do, producing “auxless questions” They tend to lack subject-auxiliary inversion, especially in negated questions They have no auxiliary to invert in the first place, since it is often omitted They avoid raising Neg. to T They lack do-insertion Examples: Where daddy go? What daddy have? They use no instead of not in negated sentences (Kliman & Bellugi 1966)

18 CONCLUSIONS Internet memes demonstrate recursion, garden path sentences, and child speech in ways that make them humorous and ironic Their syntactic structures are different than those of Standard American English, yet still systematic Native speakers can create new and different ways of speaking their language, yet maintain understanding and productivity Evidence for Chomsky’s Universal Grammar (UG)


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