Volume 30, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238



This paper explores social bonding in language play via the construction of ‘Chinese character (annotation)’ on two major social media platforms ( and ) in China. The Chinese characters and their bracketed annotations under study, despite their one-to-one matching in sequence, never match each other either in meaning or in pronunciation. They convey a sense of playfulness among social media users who may be acquaintances or strangers to each other. While research on language play has uncovered systematic interpersonal meanings and social functions, our analysis of screen-based and user-based data shows that such linguistic behavior in a virtual community of practice contributes to social bonding among social media players. Within such structure and with different substitutes for both characters and annotations, social media users frame their expressions in evaluative or emotive ways to facilitate their presentation of an alternative self and of individual or community values.


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