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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

Writing in all caps, while not unique to the internet, has become a common feature used in social media. English-speaking internet natives seem to have shared intuitions about what meaning it contributes to a text, even though it is not a feature taught in standard English orthographic education. This study employs production studies to determine how readers produce tweets written in all caps out loud, in order to provide evidence that there is a prosodic component to the interpretation of all caps. Though common discourse about all caps holds that it indicates yelling and anger, the data from this study shows that it's not just average loudness but also average pitch and syllable duration that tend to be increased in the production of all caps text versus text with standard capitalization. This combinaiton of prosodic features which can be associated with all caps also supports the conclusion that it can be used in contexts exemplifying a wide range of emotions, not just anger. This study lays groundwork for a better understanding of the interaction between orthography and prosody on social media and how production studies can be used to test such interactions.

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