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Advice activities as a central language practice in thedigital tourist space of Zanzibar

Advice activities as a central language practice in the digital tourist space of Zanzibar

by Dr. Susanne Mohr (University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway)

Tue, December 7, 2021, Zoom 652 9201 5965, Passcode: 724178 (Research Colloquium)


Space, a social and affective construct (Canagarajah 2020), is created discursively and multimodally in tourist contexts. Various types of social spaces and communities of practice, such as affinity spaces, exhibit distinct language practices (King 2019). In my talk, I will discuss the digital tourist space of Zanzibar within a community of practice framework and will focus on advice activities as one distinctive language practice. Advice-related speech activities are an object of study in various disciplines, including linguistics and sociology. With respect to African contexts, advice has been relatively neglected so far, with studies by Ellece (2011) on advice in marriage ceremonies in Botswana and Hampel (2015) on a Ghanaian Facebook advice column constituting notable exceptions. A practice typical of many African contexts is the use of proverbs or idioms to mitigate the facework associated with advice activities (Obeng 1996).

In the digital Zanzibari tourist space, inspirational quotes, a practice similar to proverbs, emerge as a central practice. The data analyzed for my project consist of posts geotagged for Stone Town and retrieved from the social network Instagram in 2019/20. In the corpus, advice activities play an important role with 137 posts containing a form of advice. Of these, 73 (53%) are inspirational messages, exemplified by the most frequent words in these posts such as dreams, destiny and maisha (‘life’). In the analysis, I describe advice activities pragmatically with respect to discursive moves, level of directness, and discuss which function especially the inspirational messages fulfil. I contextualize my findings in view of results from previous fieldwork (e.g. Mohr 2020), thus contributing to the description of the nexus of offline and online social spaces. The concluding part is concerned with the influence religion and taboo topics other than death exert on the conceptualization of this topic within the languages in question.

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