From Rest in Peace to #R.I.P.: tracing shifts in the language of mourning

Giaxoglou, Korina (2020). From Rest in Peace to #R.I.P.: tracing shifts in the language of mourning. In: Tagg, Caroline and Evans, Mel eds. Message and Medium: historicising English language practices. Topics in English Linguistics. De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 129–148.



This chapter traces shifts in the language of mourning adopting an empirical, historicizing approach to the study of the expression R.I.P., shorthand for Rest in Peace, which has become commonplace in everyday performances of mourning online. First, it considers an eclectic mix of data, including worship texts, an online debate relating to the appropriateness of the use of the expression, citizen sociolinguistic insights, and media commentary and brings to the fore changing meanings of R.I.P. as well as different attitudes to its contemporary uses. It then moves on to report the findings of a linguistic-discursive analysis of a corpus of tweets featuring the hashtag #R.I.P. (N=215), suggesting that R.I.P. is used as a stand-alone indexical expression, whose meaning emerges from the context in which it occurs. In the corpus examined, the expression was found to serve as a positioning resource in public acts of mourning, attesting to broader trends for personalizing and informalizing mourning, but also in a few cases its meaning was found to extend to the sharing of trivial experiences of loss and sadness. The study foregrounds the importance of an empirical, transmedia lens into “small” changes in language use, which are intricately connected to changing contexts and modes of communication.

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