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Appears in Collections:Literature and Languages eTheses
Title: Memeing and meaning: an examination of internet memes as linguistic units
Author(s): Allen, Conner M
Supervisor(s): Smith, Andrew
Benwell, Bethan
Keywords: linguistics
internet memes
digital culture
language change
Issue Date: May-2022
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Internet memes have become a common communicative tool, blending images, text, and humour into complex multimodal units. Despite their prevalence, memes have been the subject of comparatively little linguistic study. In this thesis, I have undertaken an analysis of image macro memes from a linguistic perspective, drawing from a framework based on iconicity and metaphor. My approach was also informed by data from a review of 30 prevalent memes, an online survey of the Reddit forum r/memes, and focus groups of meme users. Combining established linguistic conventions with the findings from my data collection, I have created a theoretical model to document meme construction and evolution, the Life Cycle model of internet memes. This model consists of three stages—creation, conventionalization, and abstraction—which are each defined by six criteria: engagement, relation to origin, locus of meaning, continuity of form, continuity of meaning, and intuitability. In Stage One, a meme is a largely structural unit used by a limited group which relies on a fixed form and meaning. In Stage Two, these characteristics begin to erode, with the meme used in a larger network with fewer restrictions of form and meaning. In Stage Three, a meme moves beyond its physical limits into the conceptual sphere, emerging as a widely used point of reference with highly fluid or branching forms and meanings. Together, the stages of my Life Cycle model describe the entire progression of a meme from a novel pairing of media with text through to becoming an entrenched part of internet culture.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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