Date of Award

2012

First Advisor

Nancy Bonvillain

Second Advisor

John Weinstein

Third Advisor

Chris Coggins

Abstract

With a population of well over 400 million users, the Internet in mainland China is a vast and ever changing community. The language used within this community features creativity and innovation produced by Chinese “netizens” (citizens of the Internet). Chinese Internet language makes use of native features of Mandarin Chinese, such as its character-based writing system, and the extensive number of homophonic syllables in the spoken language. Chinese Internet language also takes advantage of the English language as more Chinese people become familiar with and proficient in it. In addition, the “Great Firewall.” developed and maintained by the Chinese government in order to censor Internet content, acts as a catalyst for a great deal of linguistic innovation reflected by the efforts of netizens to evade censorship while still communicating sensitive or forbidden material. My thesis aims to describe these factors which influence and create Chinese Internet language by illustrating several examples that fall within each category. In doing so, I will paint a picture of the linguistic and social environment within which Chinese Internet language is produced.

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