Onomastics in Interaction With Other Branches of Science. Volume 2.

Usernames as Linguistic Devices of Self- and Other-Categorisation in Computer-Mediated Communication

Katarzyna Aleksiejuk
National Coalition of Independent Scholars


This study analyses metadiscourse produced by Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) participants on how they select and operate their usernames. The data comprises two answers to an open question in a survey conducted amongst participants of Чat30 (‘Chat30’), a website on the Russian-speaking Internet. These texts are approached as excerpts of communication rather than survey data and examined using Membership Categorisation Analysis (MCA) as an analytical tool. MCA originated from the work of Harvey Sacks, based on Ethnomethodology (EM) developed by Harold Garfinkel, who studied the interactional character of social reality. MCA serves to analyse linguistic strategies that people use to allocate themselves and others to so-called “membership categories” with commonly recognised sets of attributes ascribed to them. The general perception within this analytical approach is that personal names are used to refer to people, but not to categorise or otherwise characterise them, and therefore are not considered as terms of categorisation. In contrast, the aim of this study is to show that CMC participants handle their usernames as information-rich linguistic tools that share characteristics with terms of categorisation.

username, Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), Membership Categorisation Analysis (MCA), Ethnomethodology (EM)

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