LOLspeak Verb Semantics. Aspect and Situation Type Emphasis in a Weird English Dialect

Term Paper 2014 18 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics


Table of Contents


Basic Linguistic Features & Previous Analysis

Situation Type Shift & Emphasis

i. through point-of-view shift

ii. through verb swap

iii. through noun/verb omission

iv. through tense shift

v. through verb function play




LOLspeak has established itself as a remarkably distinct form of online English language. The dialect (cf. Lefler 2011:vii) used in memes with LOLcats has developed from being a Netspeak offspring slang (cf. Lefler 2011:3) used "to make amusing text for funny cat pictures" (1) to a language phenomenon with "regularities and patterns" (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:101) that make it "a complex and systematic reimagining of the English language" (97). It has transgressed its meme boundaries and manifested in commentary forums (cf. 121), the bible rewrite "LOLcat Bible Translation Project" (www.lolcatbible.com) – and has become the subject of a number of academic works.

From a verb semantic point of view, LOLspeak jumps directly into the eye with its simplification and regularisation of verbs (cf. Gawne & Vaughan 2011:116). The dialect in fact seems to be putting strong emphasis on the verb and its function amidst a sentence by shifting not only several grammatical components, but in this way also the aspect & situation type the verb and its correlating items in a sentence operate in (cf. Saeed 1997:109). In doing so, it seems to be stressing the importance of the verb in this context as well as making aware of what in fact and in detail composes the aspect & situation type of a sentence.

Given that "without minimum knowledge of English, one would not be able to understand the Lolcat jokes" (de los Santos 2012:63) and that LOLspeak bears a "metalinguistic awareness [not only] of irregular forms by regularising them" (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:116), but also of itself, this paper aims to bring to light the concrete ways in which the shift & emphasis of a situation type take place within LOLspeak, in order to find an answer to the question: Is LOLspeak a dialect of English that is worth appraising linguistically for its instructive & educational value (cf. de los Santos 2012:75) – or is it a simple "language play" (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:97) that rather bears the contrary effect and degenerates the English language with its shifting and breaking of linguistic rules?

To begin with, the basic linguistic features of LOLspeak shall be briefly illustrated based on its previous academic & linguistic analysis, in order to give an overview of the dialect and its structure.

Basic Linguistic Features & Previous Analysis

"LOLspeakers show high levels of competence at simultaneously playing with multiple linguistic processes [...] and we believe that an examination of these processes will provide an important contribution to our understanding of language play, and of creative linguistic endeavours more generally." (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:120)

Four selected academic works that contribute to substantiating the arguments in this paper specifically observe LOLspeak in two ways: Jordan Lefler and Aliza Rosen respectively observe the precise linguistic patterns and features that inhibit LOLspeak in order to approach a definition of it – "that is, whether it is a language unto itself, a dialect or variation of English, or something else entirely" (Rosen 2010:7), whilst Lauren Gawne & Jill Vaughan as well as Eduarda Abrahão de los Santos do the same in order to justify LOLspeak's importance for language research, language education (cf. de los Santos 2012:75) and community "identity construction" through language play (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:121). In all four works, LOLspeak's linguistic traits are the object of observation.

The following linguistic traits, though they still remain flexible (cf. Gawne & Vaughan 2011:114), that are relevant for this paper have been observed:

"the use of third person construction in place of the first person" (Ferguson in Rosen 2010:9, cf. de los Santos 2012:67) or the "irregular person agreement between nouns and verbs in the present tense" (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:115)

"a greater use of nouns rather than pronouns and verbs" (Ferguson in Rosen 2010:9)

"a lack of article usage" (8)

copula variation ranging from standard & nonstandard to no usage (cf. Lefler 2011:31-32)

determiner variation ranging from standard & nonstandard to no usage (cf. 36-37)

"recurring syntactic structures" (39):

"{subject} + (can) + (has) + [noun phrase] + (?)" (39)

"{subject} + (has) + (a) + [noun phrase]" (40)

"[noun phrase] + {subject} + (has) + {pronoun}" (40)

"(I'm) + (in) + [determiner phrase] + {verbpresent progressive} + [determiner phrase]" (41)

"a tendency to over-extend the regular past tense suffix '-ed' in lexical verbs (but not copulas)" (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:114, cf. de los Santos 2012:67)

the regularisation of irregular verb forms (cf. Gawne & Vaughan 2011:114)

"double-marking of past tense" (114)

"the ellipsis of grammatical elements that are syntactically obligatory in Standard English" (117) – such as noun or verb phrase components, also the replacement of auxiliaries in negative structures by 'no' (cf. 117) It is important to note that in all four works LOLspeak is conclusively determined as an invented internet dialect which uses standard as well as non-standard English (cf. Lefler 2011:58) "with a tendency to go towards nonstandard English for simplification" (58). It is a dialect which clearly tends to have certain set syntactic patterns, yet remains a language play phenomenon (cf. Gawne & Vaughan 2011:103-104) whose patterns are flexible (cf. 114). Nevertheless, its "language variation" (de los Santos 2012:75) can be used to teach or bring awareness to the linguistic patterns of standard English (cf. 68-69). Bearing this in mind, LOLspeak's patterns of verb aspect & situation type shift as well as emphasis will in the following chapter be observed in order to conclude whether the meta-aware (cf. Gawne & Vaughan 2011:116) language play of LOLspeak can serve as an instructive example of verb aspect & situation type.

Situation Type Shift & Emphasis

The figures within this paper that serve as LOLspeak examples of situation type shift & emphasis will have a standard English equivalent in addition to each LOLspeak phrase. In order to reduce figure length, the phrases within the figures will be marked with an "L:" if they are in LOLspeak and with an "SE:" if they are in standard English.

The figures are numbered according to chronological appearance within this paper and their sources will be listed under each respective number in the adhering bibliography.

i. through point-of-view shift

The first shift applied by LOLspeak which will be analysed jumps directly at the eye with its inappropriateness and has been described as the "strong tendency for irregular person agreement between nouns and verbs" (Gawne & Vaughan 2011:115). It is the point-of-view shift that can be observed in a large number of LOLspeak phrases, including the following:


The simplification of both the 1st person singular and 3rd person plural to the 3rd person singular seem to shift the whole stative phrase into a more static environment. The active sense of 'not feeling so good', the "internal phase[...] or change" (Saeed 1997:109) taking place, seems to be less emphasized. Rather, the verbs 'feels' and 'is' seem distanced from their subjects as well as the situation due to their grammatical non-agreement with them and as the dynamic sense seems to have been withdrawn from 'not feeling so good', more emphasis is put on the stableness of the situation (cf. 37) and the statement itself.


This shift is especially emphasized in figure (2) with its demanding phrase of obligation. Though it describes the accomplishment and culminated process of taking both cats (cf. Moens & Steedman 1988:18), the LOLspeak version is strikingly more imperious by almost simply stating the fact that they both will be taken. This effect is again triggered by the point-of-view shift of the verb from 1st to 3rd person singular, distancing it from the situation and placing it in a charging, yet static position.



Similarly, figures (3) and (4) stress the static as well as durative attribute of having the respective object. They both (yet especially (3)) emphasize the owning property of the verb 'to have' and seem to push aside the importance of actually obtaining the respective object. This has the effect that the culmination of receiving the object seems irrelevant in light of the now emphasized point event (cf. Moens & Steedman 1988:17).



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lolspeak verb semantics aspect situation type emphasis weird english dialect



Title: LOLspeak Verb Semantics. Aspect and Situation Type Emphasis in a Weird English Dialect