A Grammar of neologisms on social media: a case of facebook and whatsapp language in Zambia.

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Nkhata, Lucy
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The University of Zambia
Drawing on both lexical morphology and lexical semantics, the study discursively interrogates the outcome lexical items of the social media discourses and self-asserting narratives. An attempt is made to discursively examine the interplay between technology and grammar. Thus the study brings forth some morphological and semantic concerns on social media neologisms. The point of departure is the interplay between technology and word formation processes in establishing whether these outcome lexical items can be placed within the known word formation processes aptly discussed in morphology or form their own Morphological categories. Although a lot of literature exists on social media discourse in general, little is known on the grammatical concerns arising from the transformative nature of technology on language. The study takes the view that, new words have been coined with time and social media neologisms should be seen as an outcome of the creativity of language as well as its productivity. The study problematizes lexical morphology as well as lexical semantics in the broader context of media affordances in which creativity and self-asserting narratives drive and dominate the performativity of identity and communication on social media. The premise of the theoretical concerns is on three separate components: the Word Formation Rules, the filter and the mental lexicon. We take the view that, even though most social media users may not be fully informed about the word formation processes which morphologists put forth, the shared sociocultural knowledge with which these actors come to virtual spaces is sufficient to productively transform the virtual-scape linguistically. To this end, the study shows that, though some of the neologisms created on social media conform to Word Formation Rules, others are created by ‘pseudo’ word formation processes. With regard to semantic concerns about social media neologisms, the study establishes that there is no existing dictionary for the said neologisms and that social media actors themselves are able to come up with the meanings based on the shared sociocultural knowledge. This is because the neologisms in question have not yet found their way in any dictionary. Therefore, the emotional input attached to a particular neologism determines its meaning and also the sociocultural knowledge social media users share. Owing to this power accorded to social actors, the result is the potential to transform or distort the meaning, as well as the localization of some neologisms. Key words: lexical morphology, productivity, word formation processes, lexical semantics and social media
Sociolinguistics. , Digital media--Social aspects. , Acronyms. , Abbreviations. , Neologisms.