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Constructing Montenegrin Identities Online through Language Ideology and Semiotic Differentiation

Patrick, Joseph (2024) Constructing Montenegrin Identities Online through Language Ideology and Semiotic Differentiation. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Research on the intersection of language and identity in the Balkans, especially following the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, is a robust field spanning many disciplines and approaches. The current project addresses a gap in the literature on the Montenegrin national language variant in two central ways. First, by using data from popular social media platforms, mainly Reddit and Twitter/X, this project builds on internet discourse as a relatively new data source in an understudied linguistic context. Second, in contrast to other projects that characterize the Montenegrin ideological field as consisting of Serbian versus Montenegrin identities, this project reframes the questions using Montenegrin identity as its cultural base. Thus, the data reflect a more local tension between Montenegro-aligned Montenegrins and Serbia-aligned Montenegrins, with both groups drawing on a shared Montenegrin heritage, developing from close regional contact. This approach highlights the importance of local semiotic fields in constructing language ideologies. It also avoids a conflation of identity categories between "Serbia-aligned Montenegrins" and Serbs from Serbia proper, many of whom do not participate in the language debates in Montenegro. Utilizing a semiotic approach inspired by Irvine and Gal (2000, 2019), the study analyzes marked graphemes <ś> and <ź>, which are part of the controversial and newly recognized Montenegrin national variant. Alongside these graphemes, patterns of emoji usage and metapragmatic discourse emerge and these signs are thus employed as co-occurring semiotic resources that circulate and reinforce a Montenegro-aligned Montenegrin identity. By analyzing varieties of expressive communicative behaviors online, through orthography, emojis, memes, and metalinguistic discourse, this dissertation contributes to discourses of language and identity in the Balkans, specifically between Montenegro and Serbia, through a semiotic framework viewing variation in communicative practices as potential signs leading to differentiation in how identity and language use pattern on the internet. Semiotic differentiation is a productive approach for examining discourses that invoke language ideology, competing national standards, and the role of social media in public discourse around language issues.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Patrick, Josephjrp127@pitt.edujrp1270000-0002-6579-4417
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKiesling,
Committee MemberPark,
Committee MemberDuraskovic,
Committee MemberStanton,
Committee MemberVillarreal,
Committee MemberJoseph,
Date: 13 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 March 2024
Approval Date: 13 May 2024
Submission Date: 10 April 2024
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 259
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Internet language, sociolinguistics, language ideologies, orthography, Montenegrin language, the Balkans, social media, emoji
Date Deposited: 13 May 2024 13:55
Last Modified: 13 May 2024 13:55


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