Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2214-3157
  • E-ISSN: 2214-3165
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



The paper argues in favor of including cultural aspects in the description of communicative interaction. According to Eco (1976), a linguistic sign is a cultural unit. In order to use it properly, a speaker relies on communicative experience with this unit within a culture (Wittgenstein 1960Feilke 19961998Everett 2012). We expand the notion of ‘cultural unit’ by including internet memes found in social media (Shifman 20132014Diedrichsen 2013a2013b2019a2019b). The term builds on Richard Dawkins’ 1976 definition of a ‘meme’ as a unit that is the cultural equivalent of a biological gene. The paper proposes three knowledge sources for the production and comprehension of these units. The first is semiotic knowledge, the second is common ground knowledge (Clark 1996), and the third knowledge source involves culturally shared cognitive conceptualizations on which word meanings and other linguistic conventions are founded (Sharifian 2003201120152017). These three knowledge sources are established through daily interactions and learning processes within a culture (Kecskés and Zhang 2009). The paper characterizes the application of these three knowledge sources for a variety of sign uses. We will also show that a cultural view on pragmatics, as suggested by Sharifian (2017), serves to describe speech acts by identifying their culturally based source. The paper therefore demonstrates that the inclusion of cultural knowledge enables a perspective on communication that goes beyond the analysis of spoken and written words within communities of speakers, as it includes emerging means of communicative interaction in the digital age.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Barr, D. J., & Keysar, B.
    (2007) Making sense of how we make sense: The paradox of egocentrism in language use. InH. L. Colston & A. N. Katz (Eds.), Figurative language comprehension: Social and cultural influences (pp.21–42). New Jersey: Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Cannizzarro, S.
    (2016) Internet, memes as internet signs: A semiotic view of digital culture. Sign Systems Studies, 44(4), 562–586. 10.12697/SSS.2016.44.4.05
    https://doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2016.44.4.05 [Google Scholar]
  3. Clark, H. H.
    (1996) Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511620539
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511620539 [Google Scholar]
  4. Colston, H. L.
    (2008) A new look at common ground: Memory, egocentrism, and joint meaning. InI. Kecskés & J. Mey (Eds.), Intention, common ground and the egocentric speaker-hearer (pp.151–187). Berlin, New York: Mouton De Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Dawkins, R.
    (1989 [1976]) The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Diedrichsen, E.
    (2013a) Constructions as memes – Interactional function as cultural convention beyond the words. InF. Liedtke & C. Schulze (Eds.), Beyond words (pp.283–305). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9781614512776.283
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781614512776.283 [Google Scholar]
  7. (2013b) From idioms to sentence structures and beyond: The theoretical scope of the concept “construction”. InB. Nolan & E. Diedrichsen (Eds.), Linking constructions into functional linguistics – The role of constructions in grammars (pp.295–330). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.145.11die
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.145.11die [Google Scholar]
  8. (2019a) On the semiotic potential of internet memes. InA. Benedek. & K. Nyíri (Eds.): Vision fulfilled – The victory of the pictorial turn (pp.201–213). Budapest: HAS–BUTE Open Content Development Research Group, 2018, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Budapest University of Technology and Economics.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. (2019b) On the interaction of core and emergent common ground in internet memes. Internet Pragmatics [online first]: doi:  10.1075/ip.00033.die
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ip.00033.die [Google Scholar]
  10. Eco, U.
    (1976) A theory of semiotics. Bloomington, London: Indiana University Press. 10.1007/978‑1‑349‑15849‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-15849-2 [Google Scholar]
  11. Edmonds, B.
    (2005) The revealed poverty of the gene-meme analogy – why memetics per se has failed to produce substantive results. Journal of memetics – evolutionary models of information transmission9(1), 1–4.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Everett, D.
    (2012) Language, the cultural tool. London: Profile Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Feilke, H.
    (1996) Sprache als soziale Gestalt. Ausdruck, Prägung und die Ordnung der sprachlichen Typik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. (1998) Idiomatische Prägung. InI. Barz & G. Öhlschläger (Eds.), Zwischen Grammatik und Lexikon (pp.69–80). Tübingen: Max Niemeyer. 10.1515/9783110912494.69
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110912494.69 [Google Scholar]
  15. Goddard, C., & Wierzbicka, A.
    (2004) Cultural scripts: What are they and what are they good for?Intercultural Pragmatics, 1(2), 153–166. 10.1515/iprg.2004.1.2.153
    https://doi.org/10.1515/iprg.2004.1.2.153 [Google Scholar]
  16. Grice, H. P.
    (1975) Logic and conversation. InP. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics, vol.3 (pp.41–58). New York: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Kecskés, I.
    (2008) Dueling contexts: A dynamic model of meaning. Journal of Pragmatics, 40, 385–406. 10.1016/j.pragma.2007.12.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2007.12.004 [Google Scholar]
  18. (2010a) The paradox of communication. Pragmatics and Society, 1(1), 50–73. 10.1075/ps.1.1.04kec
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ps.1.1.04kec [Google Scholar]
  19. (2010b) Situation-bound utterances as pragmatic acts. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(11), 2889–2897. 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.008 [Google Scholar]
  20. Kecskés, I., & Zhang, F.
    (2009) Activating, seeking and creating common ground: A socio-cognitive approach. Pragmatics & Cognition, 17(2), 331–355. 10.1075/pc.17.2.06kec
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pc.17.2.06kec [Google Scholar]
  21. Keller, R.
    (1995) Zeichentheorie. Tübingen: Francke.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Knowyourmeme.com: Website dedicated to documenting internet phenomena. Retrieved from: https://knowyourmeme.com, last accessed28 January 2019.
  23. Kristiansen, G.
    (2008) Idealized cultural models: The group as a variable in the development of cognitive schemata. InR. M. Frank, R. Dirven, T. Ziemke & E. Bernárdez (Eds.), Body, language and mind, Vol. 2: Social situatedness (pp.409–432). Berlin, New York: Mouton De Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Kroeber, A. L., & Kluckhohn, C.
    (1952) Culture: A critical review of concepts and definitions. Peabody Museum, Cambridge, MA.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M.
    (1980) Metaphors we live by. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. McCroskey, C.
    (2018, August6). Copyright for meme-makers. Public knowledge. Retrieved fromhttps://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/copyright-for-meme-makers
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Mey, J. L.
    (2001) Pragmatics: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. (2010) Reference and the pragmeme. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(11), 2882–2888. 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.06.009 [Google Scholar]
  29. Milner, R. M.
    (2013) Pop polyvocality: Internet memes, public participation, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. International Journal of Communication, 7, 2357–2390.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Quinn, N.
    (1987) Convergent evidence for a cultural model of American marriage. InD. Holland & N. Quinn (Eds.), Cultural models in language and thought (pp.173–192). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511607660.008
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511607660.008 [Google Scholar]
  31. Scally, D.
    (2018, February17): Three billboards outside Merkel’s apartment. Retrieved fromhttps://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/derek-scally-three-billboards-outside-merkel-s-apartment-1.3393501
  32. Schwabach, A.
    (2012) Reclaiming copyright from the outside in: What the Downfall Hitler meme means for transformative works, fair use, and parody. Buffalo Intellectual Property Law Journal, III(1), 1–25. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256017455, last accessed28 January 2019.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Sharifian, F.
    (2003) On cultural conceptualisations. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 3(3), 187–207. 10.1163/156853703322336625
    https://doi.org/10.1163/156853703322336625 [Google Scholar]
  34. (2011) Cultural conceptualisations and language: Theoretical framework and applications. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/clscc.1
    https://doi.org/10.1075/clscc.1 [Google Scholar]
  35. (2015) Language and culture: Overview. InF. Sharifian (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of language and culture (pp.3–17). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. (2017) Cultural linguistics. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 10.1075/clscc.8
    https://doi.org/10.1075/clscc.8 [Google Scholar]
  37. Shifman, L.
    (2013) Memes in a digital world: Reconciling with a conceptual troublemaker. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 18(3), 362–377. 10.1111/jcc4.12013
    https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12013 [Google Scholar]
  38. (2014) Memes in digital culture. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Sperber, D.
    (2000) An objection to the memetic approach to culture. InR. Aunger (Ed.), Darwinizing culture: The status of memetics as a science (pp.163–173). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. wa Thiong’o, N.
    (1986) Decolonising the mind: The politics of language in African literature. London: Heinemann.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Wierzbicka, A.
    (1998) German ‘cultural scripts’: Public signs as a key to social attitudes and cultural values. Discourse & Society, 9(2), 241–282. 10.1177/0957926598009002006
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926598009002006 [Google Scholar]
  42. Wikipedia: Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
    Wikipedia: Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Billboards_Outside_Ebbing,_Missouri, last accessed15 November 2018.
  43. Wittgenstein, L.
    (1960) Philosophische Untersuchungen. In: L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus (= Schriften 1), Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. English translation byG. E. M. Anscombe, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): common ground; cultural unit; internet memes; pragmatics; semiotics
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error