Narration, knowledge and expertise in cultural vlogs

31 May 2024
Room E1

Narration, knowledge and expertise in cultural vlogs

In recent years, social networks such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram have increasingly attracted vloggers who report on life in a culture that is foreign to them. The vloggers in question often describe their channels as intercultural or ascribe to them the purpose of dealing with intercultural experiences. My contribution is dedicated to content creators living in Germany who talk in English about their everyday life in Germany and who define themselves as not belonging to the German culture.

This form of interculturality is often problematized in intercultural communication and cultural studies because it presupposes a homogeneous understanding of culture – here the Germans, there the non-Germans. At this point, the lay understanding of interculturality seems to run counter to the academic perspective, where concepts of transculturality, third space and cultural interference have gradually replaced ideas of cultural identity (cf. e.g. Bhaba 1990, Hall 1996, Reckwitz 2001).

Against this background, the aim of the study is to examine the linguistic devices used by the vloggers to address their cultural affiliation, how they describe the other culture and how they use cultural features to create humor. To create online specific content the vloggers have to put their experiences into a narrative form. They often use short forms to narrate to the point and create a funny story about their experiences. Therefore, they have to apply different strategies to pin down their main assumptions and statements. In the contribution, the relevant linguistic strategies and patterns are identified and systematized. The background of the analysis is the broad narrative research in linguistics following Labov et al. 1967 (cf. e.g. Iyanga-Mambo 2021), but also pragmatic approaches to knowledge, common ground and humor, especially in intercultural constellations (cf. e.g. Deppermann 2018, Diedrichsen 2023, Ehlich/Rehbein 1977, Kotthoff 1996, Kotthoff 1999, Senkbeil 2023). A sample of short videos from the above-mentioned intercultural vloggers is analyzed with regard to the narrative and illocutive structure and markers of knowledge and common ground. Code switches, language mixtures and borrowings are used to mark up knowledge about a culture (and indicate affiliation to a culture), but other devices and patterns are used as well.

The examination of these forms of intercultural narratives provides information about linguistic procedures in certain media settings, about the linguistic structuring of experience, but also about the perception of interculturality in quotidian life.



Bhabha, H. K. (1990). Nation and Narration. London: Routledge.

Hall, S. (1996): Who needs ‘Identity’? In S. Hall, & P. du Gay (Ed.), Cultural Identity (pp. 1-17). London: Sage.

Deppermann, A. (2018). 5. Wissen im Gespräch. In K. Birkner & N. Janich (Ed.), Handbuch Text und Gespräch (pp. 104-142). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

Diedrichsen, E. (2023). Grounding emergent common ground: Detecting markers of emergent common ground in a YouTube discussion thread. In I. Kecskes (Ed.), Common Ground in First Language and Intercultural Interaction (pp. 105-134). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Ehlich, K., & Rehbein, J. (1977). Wissen, Kommunikatives Handeln und die Schule. In H. Goeppert (Ed.) Sprachverhalten im Unterricht (pp. 36-114). München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag.

Iyanga-Mambo, E. (2021). Online Personal Narratives: Comments Sections as Support Groups in Knowledge-Sharing Platforms. In L. Mihăeş, R. Andreescu, & A. Dimitriu (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Contemporary Storytelling Methods Across New Media and Disciplines (pp. 17-39). IGI Global.

Kotthoff, H. (1996). Impoliteness and conversational joking: on relational politics. Folia Linguistica 30 (3/4), 299-327.

Kotthoff, Helga, 1999. Coherent keying in conversational humour: contextualising joint fictionalisation. In: W. Bublitz, U. Lenk, & E. Ventola (Eds.), Coherence in Spoken and Written Discourse (pp. 125-150). Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Senkbeil, K. (2023). Mutual knowledge and the ‘hidden common ground’: An interdisciplinary perspective on mutual understanding in intercultural communication. In I. Kecskes (Ed.), Common Ground in First Language and Intercultural Interaction (pp. 197-218). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Labov, Willian, & Waletzky, Joshua (1967). Narrative Analysis. In J. Helm (Ed.), Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts (pp. 12-44). University of Washington Press.

Reckwitz, Andreas (2001). Multikulturalismustheorien und der Kulturbegriff. Vom Homogenitätsmodell zum Modell kultureller Interferenz. Berliner Journal für Soziologie 11. 179-200.