“Long Live Chairman Mao!!!! Your People Miss You!!!!”: Development of the Involvement System to Describe Social Positioning in Digitally Mediated Communication From China

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Journal of Research in Applied Linguistics


This study reports on the development of the interpersonal discourse semantic system of involvement based on the analysis of evaluative meanings in 3 different data sets of Chinese digitally mediated communication. It builds on prior work developed within tenor and interpersonal meanings. Within the proposed system, 3 kinds of interpersonal meaning dimensions are posited. The first relates to the relative status between interlocutors and participants within a social hierarchy and is, thus, named social hierarchy. The second relates to the positioning of the person posting and others in relation to how close their relationship is and is, thus, named social distance. The third relates to who is being positioned within the other 2 dimensions and is called involvement type. Within the 3 data sets of digitally mediated Chinese communication (i.e., forum posts, SMS, and chat room messages), we found that the Chinese interlocutors frequently positioned themselves and others in relationships both within a social hierarchy as well as in relationships concerning their relative social distance. Results show there are a number of linguistic realisations of these 3 involvement systems which Chinese interlocutors use to negotiate their relative social positions in digitally mediated communication.

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