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University of Reading
Iconicity, virality and the intercorporeal speech chains of TikTok

This paper analyses the way lip-synching on TikTok contributes to the reproduction and circulation of racial stereotypes. Drawing on recent work on the role of iconicity in sociolinguistics, it examines two ‘audio memes’ that feature the lip-synching of minoritized voices by mostly White creators. Understanding how these practices of ‘digitally assisted crossing’ operate ideologically, it is argued, requires that we go beyond traditional concerns with indexicality to examine the more sensuous, embodied aspects of such performances, especially the ways lip-synching allows creators to simultaneously embody the affect of both speaker and listener. The perspective offered in this paper contributes to our understanding of language crossing by accounting for the experiential, and intercorporeal dimension of such practices as well as our understanding of how new forms of embodiment made possible by digital technologies are affecting semiotic and social practices around social categories like race.


Rodney H. Jones is Professor of Sociolinguistics in the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading. His research interests include language and digital media, health communication, language and sexuality, and language and creativity. His recent books include Understanding Digital Literacies: A practical introduction, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2021) Viral Discourse (Cambridge University Press, 2022) Introducing Language and Society, (Cambridge University Press, 2022). In March 2022 he was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.



Zoom Details

Zoom Link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/2262396829?pwd=WUhyZXc5YUx4TkNjd1VQeUJQeFNTQT09

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