“B/w U & me”: The Functions of Formulaic Language in Interactional Discourse on Twit er

| June 6, 2013

July 2013
Volume 7 Issue 1

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“B/w U & me”: The Functions of Formulaic Language in Interactional Discourse on Twitter

Paul Dickinson 
Niigata University of International and Information Studies, Japan

Bioprofile: Paul Dickinson received his M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham, UK. He is currently a lecturer on the Communicative English Program at Niigata University of International and Information Studies, Japan. His research interests include formulaic language, pragmatics, discourse analysis and teaching English as an international language.


Formulaic language, word strings that appear to be mentally stored and retrieved as single units, has recently been receiving considerable research attention. The present study explores the functions of formulaic language in interactional discourse on the Twitter microblogging service. Using Wray’s (2008) morpheme equivalent unit (MEU) definition and a diagnostic identification criteria developed by Wray and Namba (2003) instances of formulaic language use were identified in a dataset of the Twitter-mediated interactions of a group of English language teaching (ELT) professionals. Data analysis drawing on prior studies revealed the functions of formulaicity in these interactions. Based on the findings, it is argued that formulaic language performed four main functions: to manipulate situations, to assert individual identity, to assert group identity and to connect the meaning and structure of the discourse. It was also found that users overwhelmingly chose formulaic language over novel constructions to help them achieve their communicative goals. This study contributes to understanding of the crucial role played by formulaic language in communication and may also be of interest to people interested in how language is used to facilitate conversation-style interaction on Twitter.

Keywords: formulaic language, Twitter, morpheme equivalent unit (MEU), social interaction, interactional discourse.

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Category: Volume 7 Issue 1 June 2013