"Dwelling in the fear of the scales forever": Religious diction in pro-anorectic websites from a discourse-analytic perspective
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Anorexia Internet sites (also known as "Pro-Ana" sites) employ various linguistic devices in the propagation of their message. This article sets out to investigate such devices as they are used in or by these sites. The sites themselves are regarded as texts, and are explored within the ambit of Discourse Analysis. The research looks at discourse strategies employed by Pro-Ana participants by which they share their experiences as a type of virtual support group. To decode the concealed language of these sites, Discourse Analysis is used. Central to this language are coinage, code words, and metaphors. One of the problems inherent in such language strategies are that they continually reshape themselves either to escape being shut down by search engines or to keep the sites from being read by anti-Ana individuals or groups. This constant changing was in itself a type of language evolving faster than everyday language outside these sites. Because the articulation of the Pro-Ana dogma manifests strongly religious overtones and demands absolute adherence to its liturgy, portions of the websites sampled revealed religious or quasi-spiritual diction. The aim and scope of this article is to focus particularly on specific religious diction by making use of the semantic and syntactic levels of Kitis and Milapides-model (1997) to amplify the religious aspect of anorectic websites. Because of the limited scope of the article format, Kitis and Milapides' (1997) pragmatic and intertextual/textual rhetorical levels have been excluded. The article has a three-fold relevance for language teaching. First, it demonstrates the manner in which language is being manipulated on the internet to propagate the insidious "worship" of anorexia, and so brings awareness of such strategies to language facilitators and, through them, to learners. Secondly, in discussing specific examples of religious diction from these websites, the article shows how these language strategies are used (and misused), no matter how ineptly, for the advocacy of Anorexia Nervosa as a desirable way of life which may lead to tragic and unnecessary deaths. Finally, through worked examples, the article demonstrates ways in which Discourse Analysis may be usefully used to decode internet websites devoted to Anorexia.
- Faculty of Humanities