Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

Dr. Camilla Vásquez

Committee Member

Mariaelena Bartesaghi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nicole Tracy-Ventura, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amanda Huensch, Ph.D.


citizen sociolinguistics, digital discourse analysis, metapragmatics, neologisms, social network sites, gender, race, class, body


This study investigates the language of “citizen sociolinguists,” everyday users of social network sites (SNS) who contribute to the discourses about language on Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr, platforms with distinctive user demographics and technological affordances. The data were collected through keyword searches for mansplain, whitesplain, richsplain and thinsplain, metapragmatic neologisms which are lexical blends of the verb explain and one of four social categories. Disputes of macro-level ideologies are revealed by users’ creative meaning-making strategies and metapragmatic awareness of micro-level texts and utterances. Making use of the linguistic practices of the SNS, as well as the concisely-compacted semantic and pragmatic meanings of the four splain words, users come to evaluate communicative dynamics between speakers who differ from or relate with others in their experiences of sex, skin color, economic status, and physical form. Drawing on elements of Citizen Sociolinguistics (Rymes & Leone, 2014) with Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1989) and Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis (Herring, 2004), I question how users make metapragmatic judgements to convey varying meanings of the four focal words, and how the uses of [x]splain and the surrounding discourses illuminate socio-ideological values about language, about its intersection with gender, race, class, and body size, and the authority to speak on topics that are macro-contextually situated in discourses of privilege, power, and inequality. Lastly, I compare the findings across the three SNS platforms to understand how competing discourses differ in relation to each site’s user demographics, technological affordances and limitations, and subsequent linguistic practices.