Orthography in social media: Pragmatic and prosodic interpretations of caps lock

Maria Heath


Orthography in social media is largely understudied, but rich in pragmatic potential. This study examines the use of "caps lock" on Twitter, which has been claimed to function as an emotive strengthener. In a survey asking participants to rate tweets on gradient scales of emotion, I show that this claim does not account for all the data. I instead propose that caps lock should be understood as an indicator of prosody in text. I support this theory by drawing on Twitter corpus data to show how users employ single-word capitalization in positions indicative of emphatic stress and semantic focus. A prosodic interpretation of capitalization accounts for all the data in a unified way.


orthography; capitalization; Twitter; social media; prosody; corpus; computer mediated communication

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v3i1.4350

Copyright (c) 2018 Maria Heath

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