This study investigates various communicative functions served by hashtags in written communication on Twitter from a linguistic pragmatic perspective. A tweet containing a hashtag links to, and is integrated into, a timeline of other tweets containing the same hashtag. Thus, hashtags are by default categorizing or organizing; a user of Twitter may add the tag #food to their tweet to integrate it into a general conversation about this topic. However, this study demonstrates that hashtags are also used creatively to perform other communicative functions. In the data presented, hashtags are employed as complexly multifunctional linguistic devices for, among other things, structuring information, playing games, and engaging in reflexive meta-commentary. Notably, while pragmatic methodology is typically applied to speech, this study indicates that a traditional speech acts framework may be profitably applied to written communication in new media.
2014. Vol. 27, 127-152 p.