Social Semiotics and Linguistic Functions of Turkish Social Media: A Study of #HashtagUsage

Firat Başbuğ

Social Semiotics and Linguistic Functions of Turkish Social Media:
A Study of #HashtagUsage

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

In the rapidly evolving social media landscape, hashtags have become important tools for communication, organisation and social commentary. This research explores the social semiotics and linguistic functions of hashtags in Turkish social media, using #akademikzam (academic raise), #fileninsultanları (Sultans of the Net) and #kızılcıkşerbeti (cranberry sorbet) as case studies. Using a multifaceted methodology within the framework of social semiotics and functional grammar (Halliday, Hasan 1989; Halliday 2014), this study aims to explore the complex interplay between social and linguistic meaning-making processes in the context of Turkish social media. Through the application of social semiotics, the semiotic construction of meaning through the use of hashtags is analysed. It examines how hashtags function as multimodal signs, incorporating both linguistic and visual elements, to convey messages, shape social interactions, and construct collective identities within the Turkish social media sphere. Complementing the social semiotic analysis, functional grammar is used to explore the linguistic functions of hashtag usage. The research covers how hashtag usage serves ideational, interpersonal and textual purposes. Ideationally, it examines how hashtag usage constructs meaning and conveys messages related to social issues, political discourse and personal experience. Interpersonally, the research focuses on how hashtag use shapes social interactions, builds relationships between users and facilitates online communities. Textually, the research looks at how hashtag use organises and structures online conversations, using cohesive devices and thematic coherence to create a coherent discourse. The analysis is based on a corpus of tweets containing the hashtag #HashtagUsage, using qualitative methods to identify recurring themes, linguistic patterns and semiotic constructs. The Python programming language, combined with the Twikit web scraping library, facilitated the extraction of text posts containing specific hashtags in Turkish. The use of the Twikit utility, which provides a user-friendly API for querying the platform, allowed batches of 20 posts to be retrieved per iteration. The collected social media texts were then processed and consolidated into a specialised corpus using Sketch Engine, a sophisticated corpus management and querying tool. This dataset was meticulously assembled to support detailed linguistic analysis. The findings reveal the multifaceted nature of #HashtagUsage, demonstrating its role in both social meaning making and linguistic organisation in the Turkish social media landscape.

Keywords: Social semiotics, functional grammar, hashtag, Turkish social media, #HashtagUsage