Taboo Language and Illness Online: The Use of Specific Emoticons and Graphic Signs to Talk about HIV/AIDS in South Africa

Chariatte, Nadine (2016). Taboo Language and Illness Online: The Use of Specific Emoticons and Graphic Signs to Talk about HIV/AIDS in South Africa (Unpublished). In: Symposium Language and Health Online. Typing yourself healthy. Basel. 15.-16.04.2016.

South Africa is one of the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS: According to 2014 UNAIDS data 6.8 million South Africans live with HIV/AIDS, which means a 18.9% prevalence rate among adults (15-49 years old). Despite this strong presence of HIV/AIDS in South African society it remains relatively stigmatized and is not openly talked about. The silence about HIV/AIDS maintained in everyday conversations and the superstitions associated with this illness have led to the creation of a taboo language. This study aims at shedding light on how South African users resort to specific emoticons and graphic signs to talk about HIV/AIDS online. For this purpose 368 Facebook status updates and comments concerning HIV/AIDS and its side effects were analysed. All participants, aged 14-48, lived at the moment of data collection in Cape Town, in the Cape Flats area. The online conversations investigated are mainly in English mixed with Afrikaans and/or Xhosa. The emoticons and graphic signs in most cases display a graphic depiction of the physical (and mental) effects of the illness. These linguistic and semiotic practices employed on Facebook provide insight into how Capetonian users, on the one hand, express solidarity and sympathy with people suffering from HIV/AIDS. On the other hand, the emoticons and graphic signs are used to label and position people affected by HIV/AIDS. Thus, in the South African context social network sites have become an important space and means for communicating HIV/AIDS issues.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Spanish Languages and Literature > Linguistic Studies
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Spanish Languages and Literature

UniBE Contributor:

Chariatte, Nadine

Subjects:

800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 860 Spanish & Portuguese literatures
400 Language > 460 Spanish & Portuguese languages

Language:

English

Submitter:

Nadine Chariatte

Date Deposited:

19 Jul 2016 14:20

Last Modified:

19 Jul 2016 14:20

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/84013

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