Positive Feedback Loops: Sarcasm and the Pseudo-Argument in Reddit Communities

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Christopher Mueller


When it comes to modes of communication, sarcasm may be most commonly associated with the angst-ridden adolescent or rebellious teenager. While the use of sarcasm is certainly not exclusive to these communities, such a comparison may not be entirely without reason. Etymologically, the word 'sarcasm' is derived from the Greek sarkazein, meaning “to speak bitterly or sneer”, or, more literally, “to tear flesh” (“sarcasm,” 2014). Sarcasm, then, is far from a benign feature of language, and there appears to be an inherent acerbity, or even a note of provocation, located within. Indeed, sarcasm has been referred to in research in terms such as “jocular aggression” (Pogrebin & Poole, 1988, p. 192) or “humorous aggression” (Ducharme, 1994, p. 51). This does not mean it is rarely or fastidiously used, however. In spite of any innate or perceived aggression, sarcasm is, in fact, quite a common feature in spoken discourse. In this paper, I hope to offer a descriptive analysis of sarcasm as produced in an exclusively digital space, as well as bring attention to a novel use of sarcasm specific to this environment: sarcasm used as a pseudo-argument.

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APPLE Award Winning Papers in AL & TESOL