Refereed article in conference proceedings (A4)

Méi: An innovative human classifier and its social indexicality in Chinese digital culture

List of Authors: Heidi Hui Shi

Conference name: The 17th International Pragmatics Conference, Winterthur, Switzerland 2021-07

Publication year: 2021

Book title *: Proceedings of the 17th International Pragmatics Conference, Winterthur, Switzerland



This study investigates emerging usages in Chinese cyberspace of the numeral classifier méi that violate syntactic and semantic conventions of the canonical grammar of modern Chinese. We treat these usages as constructional variants of the canonical classifier construction and show how they afford users of Weibo a device of social indexicality in the sense of Silverstein (1976, 1985, 2003) and Eckert (2000, 2008). We argue that the constructional variants facilitate the creation of a cute, chic, playful, humorous, and youthful online style and that its popularity draws on multiple indexical resources including the contrast to canonical grammar, contemporary language contact with Japanese, the influence of the cuteness culture and its commodification, and consumerism in the digital economy. This study contributes to research on the linguistic construction of identity and style, linguistic creativity in the new media and digital culture, and usage-based constructionist approaches to language use.

Last updated on 2022-04-04 at 18:01