Translating Local Issues in Global Formats: The Case of Memes

Michela Canepari


The present article aims to study the phenomenon of memes, in the attempt to identify the level of globalization vis à vis localization these communicative, social and cultural products voice. This article therefore presents a small selection of memes from both the United Kingdom and Italy, and briefly analyses them from a linguistic and visual perspective. For reasons of space, the quantitative analysis of the corpus will not be discussed at length here. However, the qualitative analysis of the memes selected for this study will prove that the majority of the existing material, while adapting to global formats and visuals, often exploits regional and local varieties of language. Thus, since language is the expression of specific cultures, the analysis demonstrates how, despite globalization, local (and localized) features of the communities that create memes survive in their uniqueness. Hence, since memes are privileged forms of communication among younger members of society, the results point to a generation of youth that, despite the tendency to follow global models, is well aware of the traditional and local cultures they stem from and strive to keep them alive. On the basis of this analysis, the article finally argues that memes – like many other products of popular culture – represent a privileged arena which, if studied systematically through the tools of discourse analysis and sociolinguistics, can reveal important aspects of the societies that produce them and their evolution. 

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