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Like or else..!: The Pragmatics of Arabic Religious Posts on Facebook
Lecture by Dr. Mai Zaki, AUS Department of Arabic and Translation Studies
The growing use of social networking sites has influenced the way we define communication. Social media is a form of computer-mediated communication (CMC), a term which has forced its way into the field of research to encompass all “communication that takes place between human beings via the instrumentality of computers” (Herring, 1996: 1). Social media itself is hardly a well-contained notion. It is defined as “Internet-based sites and services that promote social interaction between participants” (Page et al, 2014: 5). This social interaction covers a wide spectrum of human interests, including religion. This research is interested in the relationship between communication on one of the most commonly used social networking sites--Facebook--and religion in the form of posts of a religious nature. Typically, such posts combine a religiously relevant image with a textual message in Arabic that usually includes a request to “like” or “share.” From a linguistic perspective, this research falls within the area known as “cyberpragmatics,” a term coined by Yus (2001) to refer to applying cognitive pragmatics to users’ interactions online. The objective of the study is twofold. First, it discusses communication on Facebook in general, treating it as a relevance-seeking process of writing or sharing posts. The function of “Like” and “Share” are argued to be cues for communicating propositional attitude to the readers. Secondly, the study focusses on the analysis of a corpus of Arabic religious posts, in an attempt to highlight structural patterns and how they relate to certain pragmatic functions. The analysis reveals an interesting use of imperatives, interrogatives and conditionals, which manipulate the interpretation of such posts between descriptive and interpretive readings. The study also argues that a rigorous system of incentives is employed in such posts in order to boost their relevance. Positive, negative and challenging incentives link the textual to the visual image in an attempt to raise more cognitive effects for the readers.
Speaker: Dr. Mai Zaki is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Arabic and Translation Studies. She has a PhD in Linguistics from Middlesex University, London. She has taught courses in linguistics, Arabic as a foreign language, and translation in Egypt, the UK and the UAE. Her research interests include working in the fields of semantics, pragmatics, corpus linguistics, translation and foreign language teaching. She has presented her work in many international conferences. She also has professional experience as a reviewer, linguistic consultant and curriculum developer in the field of Arabic studies.
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