Completed Output


Panel “Towards an intercultural pragmatics of Reddit: Exploring subreddit cultures and communities”


Presented at the 10th International Symposium on Intercultural, Cognitive and Social Pragmatics, Seville, Spain, 23–25 May 2022

EPICS X 2022


Daria Dayter (University of Tampere)
Thomas C. Messerli (University of Basel)


With 430 million active monthly users worldwide, Reddit is currently a more popular social network than Twitter (Statista 2021). This discussion site understands itself as a “home to thousands of communities, endless conversation, and authentic human connection”, which promises that no matter any user’s interest, there will be a community for them ( Reddit has become a major internet location for building relationships, especially for groups limited by the other social networks’ content moderation. 

In this panel, we propose to apply the analytical apparatus and the existing findings of cross-cultural pragmatics (Tannen 1985, Wierzbicka 2003) to Reddit, in order to understand the contemporary phenomenon of digital tribes: people connecting with each other over common interests and beliefs unconstrained by physical boundaries. Anthropologists argue that such digital tribes are in the process of creating virtual cultures similar to real cultures (Adams & Smith 2008).

The sites of Reddit communities, i.e. subreddits, and the communicative acts that take place in them are governed by jointly negotiated pragmatic norms, which are in part codified in Reddit and subreddit rules. To accommodate the theoretical apparatus of cross-cultural pragmatics, we view individual subreddits as individual cultural units that develop own sociolects and may be described in terms of own established pragmatic norms. Community status of various subreddits has been demonstrated on the linguistic level by e.g. Leuckert & Leuckert (2020). 

Our recently formed interdisciplinary association, copRe (communicative practices on Reddit), is dedicated to exploring Reddit discourse(s) from different theoretical perspectives and with different goals, but all with the aim to contribute to the understanding of Reddit’s own communicative culture as well as the exploration of digital practices more generally. 

Specifically, our panel at the EPICS X conference will explore aspects including:

  • cross-cultural approaches to Reddit pragmatic norms 
  • communities on online platforms (e.g. communities of practice, cultural communities)
  • digital culture and participatory culture 
  • individual and group identities (e.g. discursive construction of in- and out-groups) 
  • language innovation and novel communicative practices
  • registers and genres of Reddit and subreddits
  • rhetorics, argumentation and stylistics (general and particular to digital cultures)


Adams, Tyrone L. and Stephen A. Smith (eds.). Electronic Tribes. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Reddit – Statistics and Facts. 2021. Statista 

Tannen, Deborah. 1985. Cross-cultural communication, in T. A. Van Dijk (ed.), Handbook of Discourse Analysis, vol. 4. London: Academic Press, 203– 215.

Leuckert, Sven & Martin Leuckert. 2020. Towards a digital sociolinguistics. Communities of Practice on Reddit. In: Ruediger, Sofia and Daria Dayter, Eds. Corpus Approaches to Social Media, 15-39. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 2003. Cross-cultural Pragmatics: The Semantics of Human Interaction. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter.

Panel “Digital debating cultures: Communicative practices on Reddit”


Presented at the DH2022 Digital Humanities conference, Tokyo, Japan, 24–29 July 2022

DH 2022


Daria Dayter (University of Tampere)
Thomas C. Messerli (University of Basel)


Axel Bohmann (University of Freiburg)

Daria Dayter (University of Tampere)

Lisa Donlan (University of Manchester)

Gustavo Maccori Kozma (University of Freiburg)

Sven Leuckert (TU Dresden)

Aatu Liimatta (University of Helsinki)

Hanna Mahler (University of Freiburg)

Adrienne Massanari (American University, Washington D.C.)

Kyla McConnell (University of Freiburg)

Thomas C. Messerli (University of Basel)

Rafaela Tosin (University of Freiburg)

Brief abstract

We explore aspects of digital culture and participatory culture, manifest in the communicative acts of different (sub-)communities on the online social platform Reddit. Our contributions examine linguistic innovation, new debating practices, group identities, but also methodological chances and opportunities of working with digital data and Reddit in particular.


The social media platform Reddit understands itself as a “home to thousands of communities”, where every used can find their community ( As researchers in humanities, we find that the submissions and comments posted to Reddit’s subreddits do indeed comprise authentic digital human interaction by groups of people that are in some cases prototypical communities and in other cases merely chance encounters of users who find themselves oriented towards the same virtual space. The collective communicative acts of Reddit users can be positioned in the tradition of computer-mediated communication (CMC) – as one key site of digitalised communication, shaped partially by the affordances provided by the platform, and uniquely available to researchers not just in terms of their linguistic content, but also their multimodal context and discursive structure. Importantly, however, Reddit (sub-)communities are not necessarily subject to identical communicative patterns – within each community, user types and even individual users communicate following particular patterns or even idiosyncratically. 

Our recently formed interdisciplinary network, copRe (communicative practices on Reddit –, is dedicated to exploring Reddit discourse(s) from different theoretical perspectives, but all with the aim to contribute to the understanding of Reddit’s own communicative culture as well as the exploration of digital practices more generally. 

Specifically, our panel at the DH2022 conference explores aspects of digital culture and participatory culture, manifest in the communicative acts of different (sub-)communities on the online social platform Reddit. These subreddit-communities and the digital genres they give rise to are sites of linguistic innovation as well as of new debating practices – from the combative far-right subreddit r/The_Donald to the more harmonious r/changemyview. They let us gain insights into individual and group identities, as on r/Mountaineering, and they raise question of methodology, such as the understanding of text length as both a challenge for research and a motivated choice of text authors and the employment of mixed-methods to gain insights that are both driven by big data as well as by in-depth understanding of individual and collective communicative acts.

Paper 1: Functions of text length on Reddit

Aatu Liimatta (University of Helsinki)

In corpus-linguistic studies, text length is typically seen as a potential confounding factor (see e.g. Liimatta, 2020), largely because its effects have been difficult to study using even the largest traditional corpora. However, like any other linguistic choice, the length of a text is also a choice made by the writer or speaker: it is also affected by the communicative purpose of the text and the limitations and affordances of the communicative situation.

Fortunately, large social media datasets with a range of text lengths have allowed us to approach this previously unassailable topic. Reddit is particularly interesting in terms of text length, since the length of a Reddit comment is free to vary according to the commenter’s needs. Recent studies have shown that Reddit comment length is linked to the distribution of functional linguistic features: for instance, simple information-seeking comments tend to be very short, whereas narrative registers appear to favor longer comments on average (Liimatta, Forthcoming).

In order to further explore the role and functions of comment length on Reddit, I analyze a number of subreddits in terms of both the distribution of comment lengths and the distribution of functional linguistic features across comment lengths. To do this, I make use of a large-scale dataset of Reddit comments and a simple but powerful pooling-based computational methodology.

Paper 2: Register variation in Reddit comments – A multidimensional analysis

Hanna Mahler, Kyla McConnell, Axel Bohmann, Gustavo Maccori Kozma, Rafaela Tosin (University of Freiburg)

Researchers are increasingly becoming interested in the many opportunities that Reddit provides for linguistic analysis. In this large-scale natural language processing project, we focus on register variation within Reddit comments (inspired by Liimatta 2016, 2020).

We analyze Biber’s (1998) linguistic features for register analysis, as well as platform-specific features, on all Reddit comments since 2005, using the Pushshift Reddit Corpus (Baumgartner et al. 2020). We are using this feature annotation to implement a short-text MDA (Clarke & Grieve 2019), a version of Biber’s (1988) multi-dimensional analysis, to find out which dimensions describe the linguistic variation found on the platform and whether the topical “subreddits” can be described as different registers. Our method also promises to serve as a useful tool for analysing other topics such as adaptation of linguistic norms or register diversification over time.

Our study therefore adds to the state of knowledge in several ways:

1. We regard a single comment as one text (with features extracted on the sentence level), which allows us to accurately locate linguistic variation within individual users.

2. We train a tagger specifically to overcome previous difficulties of tagging social media data (e.g. Banga & Mehndiratta 2017), based on data from Behzad & Zeldes (2020) and Gessler et al. (2020).

3. The feature extraction script, a refined and elaborated version of Biber’s (1988) initial features, is written in Python and will be made openly available.

4. Our long-term goal is to develop an MDA solution that captures variation within and among all (English) subreddits.

Paper 3: Share my view: Harmonious debating culture on r/changemyview

Thomas C. Messerli (University of Basel), Daria Dayter (University of Tampere)

In current times, digital discourses are often understood in terms of polarization. Public lay metadiscourses are full of references to social bubbles and disparate parts of society, whereas academic scholars give a lot of focus to binary categories such as information/disinformation, truth/post-truth or outrage culture. Within this context, the debating culture on the subreddit r/ChangeMyView (CMV) stands out because it encourages what we could term persuasibility – the capacity or willingness of someone to change their opinion when encountering new information. While some work has been done on the specific strategies that commenters use to achieve the task at hand, i.e. to change the original poster’s (OP) view, little attention has been paid to the question how prepared OPs actually are to change their mind and how this “malleability of opinion” (Tan et al. 2016: 621) is discursively constructed. From this perspective, original posts – submissions in Reddit terminology – are firstly performances of persuasibility, and secondly access points to persuasible-persuasive pairings, in which the subreddit community enacts its codified and tacit norms. In order to explore these pairings, we make use of the CMV corpus we have compiled and specifically compare submissions, delta-awarded comments, i.e. those comments that have changed the OP’s view, and the OP’s responses to delta-awarded comments. We do this comparison itself with a mixed-methods approach that is grounded in qualitative annotation of persuasibility in a sample of r/changemyview threads and scaled up to the corpus using corpus linguistic methods.

Paper 4: “Science has no business in the mountains”: Stance-taking and expert knowledge on r/Mountaineering

Sven Leuckert (TU Dresden)

Stance-taking, as popularised in pragmatics and sociolinguistics by Du Bois (2007), refers to “the speaker’s (or writer)’s relationship to (a) the topic of discussion, (b) the interlocutor or audience, and (c) the talk (or writing) itself” (Kiesling et al. 2018: 684). On social media, stance-taking plays an important role in the discursive construction of relationships and may be employed as a gatekeeping device. In this talk, I focus on strategies of stance-taking as it is linked to the expression of expert knowledge on the subreddit r/Mountaineering. On this subreddit, stance-taking represents a dominant tool to establish who can be considered an expert and, hence, part of the knowledgeable in-group.

In this talk, I explore which specific linguistic phenomena are employed by users of the subreddit to express stance in situations where expertise in mountaineering is in focus. After an initial manual assessment of recurring phenomena on the basis of randomly selected threads, a quantitative approach inspired by Kiesling et al.’s (2018) annotation scheme is used to establish the bigger picture of how stance-taking is employed as a gatekeeping device on r/Mountaineering. For this study, the entirety of r/Mountaineering from 2012 to August 2021 has been scraped and is taken into consideration. In sum, the findings suggest that, while quantitative methods are a useful addition in the investigation of stance on Reddit, they can only be complementary to an in-depth study of stance-taking phenomena in their discursive context.


Banga, Ritu, & Mehndiratta, Pulkit. (2017). Tagging Efficiency Analysis on Part of Speech Taggers. In International Conference on Information Technology (ICIT), 264–267.

Baumgartner, Jason, Zannettou, Savvas, Keegan, Brian, Squire, Megan & Blackburn, Jeremy. (2020). The Pushshift Reddit Dataset. In Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 14th edn.

Behzad, Shabnam, & Zeldes, Amir. (2020). A Cross-Genre Ensemble Approach to Robust Reddit Part of Speech Tagging.

Biber, Douglas. (1988). Variation Across Speech and Writing. Cambridge University Press.

Bucher, Taina. (2018). If…then : algorithmic power and politics. Oxford University Press.

Clarke, Isobelle, & Grieve, Jack. (2019). Stylistic Variation on the Donald Trump Twitter Account: A Linguistic Analysis of Tweets Posted between 2009 and 2018. PloS one, 14(9), e0222062.

Costanza-Chock, Sasha (2020). Design justice: Community-led practices to build the worlds we need. The MIT Press.

D’Ignazio, Catherine, & Klein, Lauren F. (2020). Data feminism. The MIT Press.

Dayter, Daria, & Messerli, Thomas C. (2021). Persuasive language and features of formality on the r/ChangeMyView subreddit. Internet Pragmatics.

Du Bois, John W. (2007). “The stance triangle.” In R. Engelbretson (Ed.), Stancetaking in Discourse (pp. 139–182). John Benjamins.

Fairclough, Norman (2013). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. Routledge.

Gessler, Luke, Peng, Siyao, Liu, Yang, Zhu, Yilun, Behzad, Shabnam, & Zeldes, Amir. (2020). AMALGUM – A Free, Balanced, Multilayer English Web Corpus. In Proceedings of The 12th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference. 5267–5275.

Gillespie, Tarleton (2010). The politics of ‘platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347–364.

Kendall, Lori (2011). ‘White and nerdy’: Computers, race, and the nerd stereotype. The Journal of Popular Culture, 44(3), 505–524.

Kiesling, Scott F, Pavalanathan, Umashanthi, Fitzpatrick, Jim, Han, Xiaochung & Eisenstein, Jacob (2018). “Interactional Stancetaking in Online Forums.” Computational Linguistics 44(4): 683-718

Liimatta, Aatu. (2016). Exploring Register Variation on Reddit: A Mulit-Dimensional Study. University of Helsinki Master thesis.

Liimatta, A. (2020). Using lengthwise scaling to compare feature frequencies across text lengths on Reddit. In S. Rüdiger, & D. Dayter (Eds.), Corpus Approaches to Social Media. John Benjamins.

Liimatta, A. (forthc.). Register variation across text lengths: Evidence from social media. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics.

Massanari, Adrienne L. (2015). Participatory culture, community, and play: Learning from reddit. Peter Lang.

Matias, J. Nathan (2019). The Civic Labor of Volunteer Moderators Online. Social Media + Society, 5(2), 2056305119836778.

Tan, Chenhao, Niculae, Vlad, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Cristian, & Lee, Lillian. (2016). Winning arguments: Interaction dynamics and persuasion strategies in good-faith online discussions. Proceedings of the 25th International Conference on World Wide Web: 613–624.