Refereed article in conference proceedings (A4)

The diminished online persona: A semantic change of Chinese classifier méi on Weibo.

List of AuthorsHui Shi

Conference nameICCLL 2018: 20th International Conference on Chinese Language and Linguistics (Paris, France) 2018-08

Publication year2018

Book title *Proceedings of the 20th International Research Conference, Paris, France August 27-28, 2018

Number in series20 (8), Part XVII

Start page2096

End page2096


This study investigates a newly emerged usage of Chinese numeral classifier méi (枚) in the cyberspace. In modern Chinese grammar, méi as a classifier should occupy the pre-nominal position, and its valid accompanying nouns are restricted to small, flat, fragile inanimate objects rather than humans. To examine the semantic change of méi, two types of data from were collected. First, 500 méi-included Weibo posts constructed a corpus for analyzing this classifier's word order distribution (post-nominal or pre-nominal) as well as its accompanying nouns' semantics (inanimate or human). Second, considering that méi accompanies a remarkable number of human nouns in the first corpus, the second corpus is composed of méi-involved Weibo IDs from users located in first and third-tier cities (n=8 respectively). The findings show that in the cyber community, méi frequently classifies human-related neologisms at the archaic post-normal position. Besides, the 23 to 29-year-old females as well as Weibo users from third-tier cities are the major populations who adopt méi in their user IDs for self-description and identity expression. This paper argues that the creative usage of méi gains popularity in the Chinese internet due to a humor effect. The marked word order switch and semantic misapplication combined to trigger incongruity and jocularity. This study has significance for research on Chinese cyber neologism. It may also lay a foundation for further studies on Chinese classifier change and Chinese internet communication

Last updated on 2022-04-04 at 18:02