Why Do Adults Use Baby Talk in the Online Space? Baby Talk as a Pragmatic Face Device in Adult Communication

Efeoğlu Özcan E., Erdoğan Öztürk Y., Işik Güler H.

Çankaya University Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, vol.15, no.2, pp.311-329, 2021 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)


This study aims to explore the motives and pragmatic functions of baby talk in adultto- adult communication in the online space. By concentrating on a recent communicative trend of using scripted baby talk in Turkish language by the Turkish social media users, we seek to answer why adults collectively adopt a speech register which is primarily used in adult-infant communication in their online socializations. Drawing on the Goffmanian notion of face and the theory of (im)politeness, the study argues that baby talk among adults in the online space functions as a powerful multidirectional and multifunctional face device addressing the notion of face in diverse directions and communicative goals. The most significant pragmatic functions of adult baby talk are found to be attacking/threatening one’s face, responding to face attacks and lastly enhancing/boosting one’s face. Face attacks were observed to occur through imposing sarcasm, mock-politeness, verbal aggression and insult while face boosting communicates affection, admiration and love. We also suggest that new affordances of the online space lead to the transformation of baby talk as a register among adults and its recontextualization as a tool for a new way of online language socialization.