Stance-taking and social status on an online bulletin board: A qualitative and quantitative approach
Abstract: In this study, I demonstrate that social hierarchy and power are important aspects for understanding the use of epistemic and evidential stance verbs in computer-mediated communication. The data for the study come from an online bulletin board about rhythmic gymnastics, where the construction of social roles is believed to play a role in the expression of stance. The members of the community are divided into three hierarchically distinct social ranks based on status and activity on the board. I investigate whether members of a higher rank use epistemic and evidential stance verbs in a more authoritative manner than members of lower ranks using two methodological frameworks. In the qualitative part of the study, I adopt the dialogical discourse analysis to argue that epistemic and evidential stance is a dialogically constructed phenomenon that locally emerges between conversational co-participants. The quantitative part of the study employs the multifactorial usage-feature analysis, where two stance verbs think and seem are coded for a range of formal, semantic and extra-linguistic factors, which are believed to contribute to the differentiation of authoritative and tentative stance. The results show that bulletin board users of a higher rank exhibit a more authoritative and even aggressive use of epistemic and evidential stance verbs than users of lower ranks.
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