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Simultaneity and the refusal to choose: The semiotics of Serbian youth identity on Facebook

  • Rachel George (a1)


Although the importance of linguistic simultaneity has long been recognized (Woolard 1998), the concept is underexamined in recent analyses of language use in globalized, digital contexts such as social media. Drawing from an analysis of everyday Facebook posts from youth in Belgrade, Serbia, the article proposes that recognizing four types of simultaneity—of linguistic features, indexical operations, effects, and scale—is key for making sense of social media utterances in political and historical context. On Facebook, Serbian youth mix languages and writing systems in complex ways, adhering to dominant ideologies of language and identity in some ways and flouting them in others. Using the Serbian case as a springboard, along with the four types of simultaneity proposed, I suggest a framework for analyzing language and identity on social media. (Serbia, indexicality, simultaneity, social media, superdiversity, bivalency, youth)*


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Rachel George, Whitman College, 345 Boyer Ave., Walla Walla, WA99362,


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This article benefitted from funding from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) International Institute, the Department of Anthropology at UCLA, and the Whitman College Sabbatical program. I am indebted to Alessandro Duranti, Elinor Ochs, Paul Kroskrity, and Adam Moore for extensive comments on various drafts of the article as well as to Rachel Flamenbaum, Amy Malek, Jan Hauck, Janet McIntosh, Marija Canković, Edwin Everhart, Sonya Rao, Rosalie Edmonds, Jenny Walton-Wetzel, and John Gahbauer for providing feedback and talking through ideas. I am also grateful to graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars at the UCLA Center for Language, Interaction, and Culture (CLIC) for their input and to my anthropology colleagues at Whitman for their insight and support. Finally, the article benefitted from extensive, thoughtful comments from two anonymous reviewers. All remaining errors are my own.



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Simultaneity and the refusal to choose: The semiotics of Serbian youth identity on Facebook

  • Rachel George (a1)


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