Charis is a student at Bryn Mawr College, where she is completing her major in Linguistics. You can watch her video here.
For example, in spoken language, up to a few years ago, it would be entirely ungrammatical for someone to say “*I want this because reasons.” They would have to say, “I want this because of reasons.” However, this structure became acceptable on the Internet, and now it’s actually spread into spoken language (albeit mostly among frequent Internet-users).
“Blefadula” is Not a Word.
The same thing happens with Internet words. While I, an avid Tumblr user, feel perfectly comfortable with doggo or snek, my parents would have no idea what these mean. One of the interesting things to me about Internet words is that they’re often very similar to “regular” English words. In this case, “doggo” is a large, cute dog and “snek” is a cute snake.
"My Friend is a Smol."
Of course, English is a language that allows us to change parts of speech pretty easily. We can use nouns as adjectives (water bottle) or as verbs (to Google). This happens even more often on the Internet, in casual “speech.” Someone might say “I’m computering right now” to mean that they’re using their computer at that time. Although “smol” is usually used as an adjective, it can also be used as a noun. I could say either “My friend is smol” or “My friend is a smol.”
Another interesting thing, which you’ll see if you watch my video, is that these words spread from the Internet to real life speech. Some Internet things, like punctuation, can’t be captured through spoken language so people don’t bother trying, but when it comes to lexical items, some people (myself included) use them quite frequently out loud. Of course, it does depend on the environment. I would never use these words when talking to my grandparents, simply because they wouldn’t know what they mean.
Lastly, how does my video connect to the broader field of sociolinguistics? Well, while I didn’t use these terms in my interviews, a lot of my results are related to broader sociolinguistic concepts. I talked to people about their comfort with these words (communicative competence) and what these words reference (indexicality). So I hope that you can watch this video and get a sense for some basic ideas of sociolinguistics, and have fun doing it!