Virtual meatspace: Word formation and deformation in cyberpunk discussions


In an initial exploration of cyberpunk glossaries found online, we noticed a variety of formation processes for cyberpunk terms: compounding (screamsheet ‘newspaper’), clipping (base ‘database’) and acronym formation (DNI ‘direct neural interface’), as well as fantasized borrowings (gomi, Japanese ‘junk’). In this analysis, we are motivated by the question of which methods of word-formation are most characteristic and productive within cyberpunk discussions online from the late 1980s to the present day. This research question engages with long-standing questions in sociohistorical linguistics regarding actuation, the origin of linguistic features; and transmission, the means by which such features spread. We deal with the latter question on a subculture-wide level, engaging the question of which forms are favored in this particular subculture. We examine the ways in which words characteristic of cyberpunk are formed and deformed through diverse and complex processes, including blending around common sound/character sequences (corpsicle), re-spelling (tek for ‘tech’ or cypx for ‘cyberpunk’) and sequential clipping- compounding (netrode ‘network’ + ‘electrode’) as well as more complex creations (e.g., teledildonics).

English in Computer-Mediated Communication: Variation, Representation, and Change, edited by Lauren M. Squires, Berlin: De Gruyter: 123–148.
Benjamin Slade
Benjamin Slade
Associate Professor of Linguistics

My research interests include formal semantics and syntax, historical linguistics, South Asian and Caribbean languages, and the use of computational concepts in formal linguistics.