Linguistic Norms and L2 Participation in Social Media

A Case Study


  • Ilona Vandergriff San Francisco State University


CMC, linguistic norms, participation, language ideologies


Although social media appear to be welcoming spaces that enable easy access to target-language communities, second language (L2) participation is not necessarily full and equitable. Drawing on computer-mediated discourse analysis (Herring, 2007) and critical discourse analysis (Wodak & Meyer, 2009), this analysis of a discussion forum on the social media platform Reddit uses social positioning theory (Harré, 2012; see also Debray & Spencer-Oatey, 2019) to show how L2 errors are construed as obstacles to full participation. I argue that linguistic gatekeeping is linked to community norms that reproduce language ideologies, affirm the authority of the idealized native speaker, and position L2 participants as L2 learners rather than L2 users. When L2 users cannot participate fully in what seem to be welcoming spaces they may exclude themselves. At the same time, the data also provide compelling evidence that Reddit offers a new mode of inclusion for L2 users.

Author Biography

Ilona Vandergriff, San Francisco State University

Ilona Vandergriff is Professor of German at San Francisco State University. She holds a Ph.D. in German linguistics from UC Berkeley. Her main research interest is in discursive, practice-driven approaches to foreign and second-language use in technology-mediated environments that begin with what L2 users do when they connect with others online. She is the author of Second-language Discourse in the Digital World. Linguistic and social practices in and beyond the networked classroom (2016), a finalist for the 2019 American Association of Applied Linguistics AAAL Book Award.