we have literally created our own dialogue? language? here on tumblr and i think that is the most amazing thing ever
please disregard my shitty editing skills
no listen this is actually really amazing because this is a real thing. i think this counts as a pidgin language. a pidgin language is basically a changed, simplified version of a language. you can change the spellings of words, pronunciation, grammar rules, or even make up new words. i think. i’d have to research it a bit more to be sure but i’m 90% sure this is right. if its not a pidgin language, then its a lingua franca but thats more used for trade and stuff like that. but still a new language. so yes, we’ve created our own language. we’ve changed the whole sentence structure. we can trail off sentences, say things like “i just cant”, and use words like ship, OTP, fic, fandom, feels, and ship names and everyone will understand what you’re saying. the part that i love most is how people go “OMGH IM CRIIY NIG SOIOO HARD” and understand each other. for example “IM LIUA GHMNIG”. that one was incredibly easy, but if you knew that said “I’m laughing”, congratulations. You speak a pidgin language. we can even say stuff like “Does anyone know of a Johnlock fic, at least 20k words, not a WIP, with no OCs, and is Post-Reichenbach? Or just a Destiel PWP would be great.” To someone not on tumblr, that wouldn’t make any sense. but you understood, didn’t you? One characteristic of a pidgin language is that you have to learn it like a second language. Another characteristic is that it is frequently changing. tumblr goes through many trends with how we talk. if i remember correctly, when i first made an account about two years ago, talking like this wasn’t quite as common. also, that thing of suddenly capitalizing your sentence is fairly recent. you know, when people go “the new epISODE IS TOMORROW”. Like one of the people up there said, all of this is awesome because how else do you easily show emotion and tone over the internet? we’ve even made a whole sense of humour that most people here share in. There’s so much more that I could talk about with this, but i’m tired and i may be entirely wrong about everything. but yes. people on the fandom side of tumblr who speak like this are speaking a new language
It’s more amazing when you think that the new language was developed almost exclusively through indirect communication.
Man I wish I still had linguisitics classes because I am sure this totally counts as a pidgin language…
Oh man, paint me green and call me Shrek, YES. This is the kind of post I’ve been waiting for.
I’m a second year English linguistics major, and according to my studies, the “Tumblr lingo” doesn’t really fall into the category of a pidgin language, but that is a clever thought, and you were definitely on the right track. Pidgin languages are essentially contact languages between different cultures, with a limited vocabulary and system of rules, that disappears completely after having served its purpose.
My favorite example is Russenorsk, the now extinct pidgin language created by Russian and Norwegian fishermen. These two languages had nothing on common, and fishermen, not generally being known for their high levels of education, probably didn’t speak any language other than their own which could have acted as a lingua franca (as English does on Tumblr and in general). Russenorsk had words only related to fishing and trading (NOTHING ELSE, you couldn’t have held a conversation about, let’s say, politics with that one), and it disappeared when the contact between the two cultures was terminated. That’s a true pidgin: an awkward, albeit revolutionary attempt at communication that’s forced into existence by simple necessity. It resembles a natural language, but is not nearly as expressive or useful in a modern person’s day to day life as a natural language.
TLDR, a pidgin is a temporary, limited mishmash of words that is not comparable to what we have here.
Tumblr lingo doesn’t adopt rules or words from other cultures, we just contort our existing knowledge of the English language into new shapes, based on a system of new, unspoken, arbitrary rules; while the new words are mostly acronyms and shorthands for already existing, common English words.
As I see it, Tumblr lingo is a sociolect of English. Not a dialect, that would imply that there is a specific place where it’s spoken, and as we know, tumblr’s audience is shockingly diverse. A sociolect, on the other hand, isn’t limited by location. It’s determined more by common experience (let’s say a workplace, or yes, a website with a strong social aspect) and social status. It includes words and expressions that are only used in that setting, and it may or may not have rules regulating the social behavior of the members. (I’m thinking of ”YAAAAAAS” now, and how it came to take the place of “yes” in certain settings, for example. Our usual, everyday reaction to a given situation changes when we’re in the setting where the sociolect that requires it is used. What’s special about Tumblr in this case is that it requires unpredictable responses, which is really dang impressive and interesting.)
That takes the circle back to OP’s question: why do popular posts observe these rules. It seems to me that the rules of Tumblr lingo are most often observed by those who are, or wish to be “Tumblr famous” (see, who wish to belong to an “elite” group or pretend that they do), or have a successful, widely known post. The upper class of our little, broken society uses broken grammar and a bastardized version of English, and it is (probably) unconsciously seen as a status symbol. We value nonchalance and unpredictable, wild emotions, and the Tumblr lingo aims to reflect just that in written form. And yes, I do believe that the tag system did participate in the abandonment of punctuation in our speech, but I could probably write a whole study about that alone.
All in all, this phenomenon is not necessarily unique, but I have never seen it change a language so violently, and I think that’s absolutely fascinating.