Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2213-1272
  • E-ISSN: 2213-1280
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Using four tweets by Steven Salaita about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that resulted in the retraction of his academic job offer in September 2014 as our case study, we investigate the role of Twitter in the shaping and reception of the controversial messages. Our analysis combines Gricean pragmatics with im/politeness and hate-speech research to reveal a complex layering of potential meanings stemming from what is linguistically encoded in each tweet. Their construal as hate speech, in particular, depends on which of these potential meanings critics chose to focus upon. We account for this finding by considering the diversity of potential audiences of a tweet and suggest that the effects of context collapse on implicated meanings can be especially detrimental. Competition for attention among incoming tweets, Twitter’s central affiliative function and applicable length restrictions can, nevertheless, place a premium on communicating such meanings.


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