Internet memes as multimodal constructions

Barbara Dancygier, Lieven Vandelanotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers a range of so-called image macro Internet memes and describes them as emerging multimodal constructions relying as much on image as on text, and apportioning roles to images much like constructional slots, for instance to fill in a subject role in a subjectless clause, or even to provide the main clause content to a textually given when-clause. In addition to existing or partially altered linguistic constructions, many examples also rely on specific top text/bottom text division of labor, and crucially depend on frame metonymy, with limited formal means quickly cueing richly detailed frames (for instance by using iconic images). The popularity of memes, forming series and cycles of iterations and remixes, and their role in establishing and maintaining discourse communities seems to be driven by a need to express and reconstrue viewpoints, often starting from ideas, affects or stereotypes assumed to be intersubjectively shared with viewers, whose responses they solicit. This paper argues that a proper description of Internet memes of the type considered requires a construction grammar approach, complemented by an understanding of viewpoint dynamics in terms of a Discourse Viewpoint Space regulating the network of spaces and viewpoints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-598
Number of pages34
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2017


  • constructions
  • frame metonymy
  • Internet memes
  • intersubjectivity
  • multimodality
  • viewpoint


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