Language use and linguistic diversity in global peripheral youth cultures: Popular culture and social media


This colloquium brings together research that explores the role of popular culture and social media in language use and linguistic diversity in current global peripheral youth cultures. The focus on peripheral youth cultures allows us to turn the attention away from Europe and North America, which are so often the focus of youth language studies and instead to look at the vibrant and emerging global peripheral youth scenes, where young people are also the drivers of linguistic innovation, the setters of new trends, the ones bending the rules, making up the terms and changing the way how language works. 

The colloquium is thus about two particular aspects of global peripheral youth cultures. First, we explore how young people are exposed to and take up a range of linguistic and broader semiotic resources in their daily communications through social media platforms. For many young people today, being online is part of everyday life. They grow up with social media, who learned to ‘swipe’ a page at an early age, whose fingers move comfortably across mobile keyboards, messaging, hashtagging, and chatting, while messing around with language. They are sitting in classes, watching us while checking their mobile devices, and living in multiple linguistic, cultural, and spatial online worlds. 

Second, we are interested in how young people take up and play with the voices and resources from popular culture resources such as hip-hop and other popular music genres, and in so doing, gain access to a range of languages, ideas, and ways of articulating the world. Popular culture resources form not just a backdrop to their daily lives, not just a pastime when they are not doing something else, but a fabric around which parts of their daily sociolinguistic lives are built. 

After an initial 20-minute introduction to the data gathering context and procedures, colloquium participants will each discuss, in 15-minute time slots, the importance of different feature(s) of the data from one of these three above discussed perspectives. A further 20-minute discussion with an invited discussant and attendees will synthesize common threads among the various perspectives while also identifying how each makes unique contributions to understanding the language use in peripheral youth cultures. 

A Mixed ´Language´ for Mixed Mense: Cape Hip Hop´s online Enregisterment of Afrikaaps

Quentin Williams, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

This paper is about the online use and enregisterment of Afrikaaps, a new and emerging register of Afrikaans used by a new generation of Kaaps speakers in post-national South Africa. Initially promoted and advanced by the local Hip Hop culture, Afrikaaps can be defined as a linguistic label that refers to a variety of Kaaps typically heard and seen in the physical locations of the Western Cape (South Africa) and the virtual linguistic landscape of social media and video sharing platforms. It is an emergent variety used by a generation of first language Kaaps speakers born after the 1980s in South Africa. It is also a label that points to the transformation of the sound patterns, lexical diversity and grammatical structure of Kaaps into new ways of speaking and being in that variety. 

In this paper, specifically, I report on a longitudinal study of Afrikaaps, part of a large study on youth multilingualism, by analyzing the use and enregisterment of this register on selected social media platforms. Specifically, I report on how young Afrikaaps speakers at schools have taken up and used the register to enregister their multilingual practices to fashion new multilingual selves in the hope to provide alternative coordinates to navigate multilingualism in South Africa, away from colonial and apartheid linguistic discourses and practices. In addition, I will argue that the use and enregisterment of Afrikaaps at the same help us to critically deconstruct the often real and painful truths about language education in a post-national transforming country. These truths continue to impact a generation of Afrikaaps speakers. 

‘Translanguaging Space’ in Bangladesh - Space of Creativity, Criticality, or Bigotry?

Shaila Sultana, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

With reference to the notion of ‘translanguaging space’ and ‘double-voicing’, the paper explores extracts from rebuttals and comments on YouTube and prank videos and various memes in Bangladesh, gathered through the method of ‘virtual ethnography’. It looks into the creativity and criticality of social media users and intends to understand in what ways they use multimodal resources and how they discursively engage with historical, political, and socio-cultural issues of their lives. The research is significantly important because of the monolingual, monocultural and mono-political biases and ideologies observed in political discourses and the introduction of Digital-Security Act 2018 in Bangladesh which seem to create a sense of insecurity and anxiety amongst social media-users. 

Based on the transglossic analysis of the data, the paper finds that media discourses are enriched with a fluid movement of different languages, technological terms, images, emoticons, and narratives beyond their linguistic, cultural, and local boundaries. These discourses indicate individual and collective locatedness of social-media users in a fluid global space and their engagement with both global-cosmopolitanism and local-traditionalism. However, the deliberate and creative manipulation of local and global multi-modal resources reflects their biases and ideologies too.  When they actively relocalise varied linguistic and semiotic resources as a means of self-identification and peer/ nation-bonding, they, in fact, reinvent, reincarnate, sustain and nurture monolingualism, mono-culturalism, and mono-politicism in different forms. They also take the role of vigilante on the social media with their use of slurs, swear words, and misogynistic expressions. Thus, the creative language practices of the social media seem to be the key sites for the production of violence, intolerance, and injustice. The paper at the end indicates the necessity of exploring the ‘translanguaging space’ as an active locus of marginalisation, hegemony, bigotry, and terrorism – not only a space of creativity and criticality.

Instagram and language use: A case study of a young Australian Aboriginal artist

Rhonda Oliver and Mike Exell, Curtin University, Western Australia

This presentation provides an account of a case study of a young Australian Aboriginal artist “Kambarni” who posts prolifically on his public Instagram account. Kambarni is in his late 20s and has family connections to those in the south-west and the Kimberely region in the north of Australia. In this study, we explored his Instagram posts – his representations of traditional culture, youth culture and the intersection of these within his social media representations. We did this by keeping an ongoing and frequent photographic record and then, through a series of one-to-one interviews, text messages and less formal conversations, interrogated the connection between his posts, beliefs, attitudes and language use. We found that he consistently displays his unique Indigenous artwork style.  He also provides commentary, visually and in writing, on his everyday happenings – most of which show a deep connection to his art, but also reflecting his personal, social and political lived experiences.  Together we explore how his posts also traverse his Indigenous and youth cultures. Through such an approach we are able to see his strong alignment with his own traditional culture, but also someone who is able to walk with confidence in non-Aboriginal ‘youth’ society.  At times he highlights his own experiences with racism (or events he observes) and the continuing subjugation of his people. However, he rarely if ever uses anything but Standard Australian English (SAE) on his Instagram account. This is despite the fact that his account targets both an Indigenous and non-Aboriginal audience. However, when we examined his reflections about his posts during our interviews, he would use Aboriginal English as appropriate. Furthermore, when engaged in less formal interactions he would ‘translanguage’– moving fluidly between SAE and AE, often doing so both for effect and to express cultural meanings. 


Translanguaging Play and Rebellion: Multilingual Chinese social media users’ creativity and criticality

Zhu Hua, University of Birmingham

Li Wei, University College London 

This talk focuses on digital communicative practices of multilingual social media users in China. The vast majority of them are well educated and political sensitive young people. They use the social media not only for everyday social interaction but also for expressing their social and political views. In a context of increasing ideological control and social problems, these young people have to be ever so creative in their digital communicative practices to avoid censorship. We examine a corpus of publicly available social media communication data. We take a Translanguaging perspective on the analysis of the data, and focus on both the creative and critical aspects of the practices. Theoretical and methodological implications will also be discussed.

New languages, new identities and relocalization in post-socialist Mongolian popular music artists

Sender Dovchin, Curtin University, Australia

Before 1990, Mongolia was a socialist nation, a satellite of the Soviet Union. The Russian language was the most important foreign language, while English and other Western languages were widely contested as the languages of capitalist ideology. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia became a new democratic society in 1990, transforming itself peacefully from a socialist to a democratic country with a free-market economy. With this drastic transformation, Mongolia opened itself to the world, embracing linguistic and cultural diversity in all aspects of its society. The popularity of Russian has been replaced by English and followed by other global languages due to enhanced access to diverse new technologies. English and other Western linguistic and cultural modes and resources thus have become inextricable sociolinguistic realities of young people in new post-socialist Mongolia. Drawing on the linguistic practices of popular music artists in post-socialist Mongolia, this paper thus addresses two main questions: (1) how new forms of local languages and (2) how new forms of local identities are performed through the complex linguistic processes of relocalization. Data examples show that young post-socialist Mongolian popular music artists should better be understood as active and powerful popular culture producers contrary to those prevalent discourses which position peripheral youth as passive recipients of global culture. Positioned within the fluid nature of the global digital practice and the increasing global spread of Englishes (and other global languages), these young artists not only create new forms of local linguistic practices but also perform multiple new identities of what it means to be a young modern Mongolian person through their musical and lyrical performances.