Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This is a bit of a weird one, but if you're looking for examples of how different social groups use language to cement their in-group status, then have a look here for expressions used by fans of science fiction and fantasy.

It's quite interesting stuff from a Language Variation perspective (like how different social groups use language in their own communities of practice) and could also be useful for Language Change when thinking about how words go through processes of abbreviation in contexts like this. A good example of this is the suffix -zine, which itself derives from a clipping of magazine, but is now used in all sorts of contexts (fanzine, e-zine, crudzine).

Communities of practice
A community of practice is an aggregate of people who come together around mutual engagement in some common endeavor. Ways of doing things, ways of talking, beliefs, values, power relations - in short, practices - emerge in the course of their joint activity around that endeavor. A community of practice is different as a social construct from the traditional notion of community,primarily because it is defined simultaneously by its membership and by the practice in which that membership engages. And this practice involves the construction of a shared orientation to the world around them - a tacit definition of themselves in relation to each other, and in relation to other communities of practice. The individual constructs an identity - a sense of place in the social world - through participation in a variety of communities of practice, and in forms of participation in each of those communities. And key to this entire process of construction is stylistic practice.

And it also gives me an excuse to use a picture of a cylon.


Defi said...

Nice to know even the geek's get a good bit of publicity. I'm guessing this would be something useful to use if we were asked about language changing using specific examples from technology or along those lines?

Dan said...

Yes, I think they'd be good for that bit and also for how youth culture/ subcultures create their own words and meanings. You could probably use it for Language Variation too, looking at how different groups/ communities of practice use language differently and why.

Defi said...

True, that's definitely more useful than it first looks then.
The reasons why though - elitism? Along the lines of trying to keep it within the community?

P.S Did you like the ending of Battlestar Galactica? I though it was a bit of an eye-opener!

Dan said...

Yeah, elitism and keeping out the n00bs. There's probably a fair bit of in-group solidarity going on too like in any group of people who share an interest - bird watchers, gardeners, snowboarders, wine conoisseurs.

And the ending of Battlestar - hmm, mixed feelings. The good thing is that I always thought i was part cylon, and the ending confirmed that.

Defi said...

So what sort of words are these? Blend words? I'm tempted to use portmanteau but I think that's the same thing as a blend...
I'll have a good look at that again now.
Ah noob, isn't that now the millionth word to enter the dictionary? I bet the "eleet" didn't like that. Now everyone is using it.

Battlestar Galactica made me examine Prof. Stephen Hawking in more detail. I think his motives are more dubious with that machine of his. Also, he wrote the Doomsday Theory concerning computers becoming more intelligent than humans. But overall, a pretty fine ending to a pretty amazing series.