Arabic and English code-switching in internet memes
This dissertation attempts to capture a thumbnail sketch of the ever-changing and evolving linguistic background in Saudi Arabia. Code-switching of Arabic and English in Internet Memes research is scarce; thus, this dissertation aims to explore this phenomenon by collecting a corpus of internet memes with English and Arabic code-switching. The objectives of this research are fourfold: First, it seeks to examine the types and functions of Arabic and English code-switching used in internet memes. Second, explore the social motivations behind code-switching in internet memes. Third, detect the features that elicit humor in internet memes using code-switching between Arabic and English. The fourth and final objective inspects the identities negotiated within internet memes through code- switching. As truncates of cultural units, Internet memes are loaded with references and hinge greatly on intertextuality. When you add an equally loaded linguistic phenomenon, such as code-switching, to that multimodal, multi-layered units, the complexity of internet memes is expanded. With this density of sub-texts and embedded cultural and social norms and values, an explorative approach is needed for collecting and analyzing internet memes with code-switching. The theoretical background I adapted for this dissertation is the interpretivism paradigm, first mentioned by Max Weber (Burger, 1977). Under this paradigm, subjective human experiences as data and analysis sources are just as imperative for generating generalizations as objective and quantitative data. I was able to look at personal experiences in Internet memes due to the social salience of Internet memes and the cultural and community values insights they provide. This view allows for an explorative approach to my data and the objectives of this dissertation. For data collection and to capture the background of internet memes collected, I follow MEMEography as an approach (Kaltenhauser et al., 2021), a digital ethnographic approach that focuses on the collection and analysis of Internet meme and their elements. Moreover, it allows for a manual technique in finding and choosing Internet memes centering around the topic of research rather than an automated and systematic collection approach. This digital ethnographic collection approach permitted looking at other aspects of social media platforms to collect more background information. As for data analysis, the thematic analysis approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2012) was applied to the internet memes corpus. This dissertation assumes a qualitative data analysis, and thematic analysis provides the accessibility and flexibility to qualitative analysis. It allowed me to look at internet memes from a thematic standpoint, where the elements and the sub-texts residing within the memes are reviewed and read through to discern more extensive and all-embracing patterns. Key findings for the data analysis showed a negotiation of dual citizenship and identities, local Saudi versus global personas. The use of trending or referential English words while using local or Arabic-based meme templates indicates an appropriation of the global culture to the local one. Moreover, there was a clear social value assigned to English as a language, yet this prestige and social value competed with Standard Arabic. The memes with Standard Arabic code-switching assigned a higher value to Standard Arabic over English. However, English and Standard Arabic take precedence over Saudi Dialect. Furthermore, the memes on gender showed the utilization of global culture versus local culture, where ‘strong independent woman’ was reappropriated to fit the current social views on the matter within the Saudi community. This dissertation provided an explorative view of the linguistic setting in the cyber- Saudi speech community put forth in internet memes. Internet memes have become a part of our daily communication. Their condensed and brief forms provide a fertile field for research, especially when paired with language contact phenomena such as code-switching. This research calls for more attention to be given to the intricacy of both phenomena, i.e., internet memes and code-switching.