“Sassy Queens”: Stylistic orthographic variation in Twitter and the enregisterment of AAVE

Christian Ilbury*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recent computational sociolinguistic analyses of social media have emphasized the potential of using orthographic variation as a proxy for speech, thereby permitting macro-level quantitative studies of regional and social variation (e.g. Eisenstein, 2015). However, the extent to which stylistic variation may affect these analyses remains largely unexplored. In this paper, I explore how authors use variant spellings stylistically to deploy personae and characterological figures (Agha, 2003), by examining the presence of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) features in a corpus of 15,804 tweets extracted from the timelines of 10 gay British men. I argue that the stylization of AAVE signals the development of a very specific persona—the “Sassy Queen”—which relies on an essentialized imagining of Black women as “fierce” and “sassy.” Concluding, I emphasize the value of micro-level analyses in complementing quantitative analyses of linguistic variation in social media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-264
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number2
Early online date18 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • AAVE
  • computational sociolinguistics
  • orthographic variation
  • social media
  • stylization
  • Twitter


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