Categorization of Memes

Laura Ambrus


Nowadays a huge amount of communication is performed in an online environment. This tendency facilitated the realization of certain digital elements specific to online interfaces. Generally speaking, it can be stated that a new genre appeared in the past few years – the memes, which are a combination of pictorial and textual elements, created and shared online. Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackmore, who provided the traditional meme definition, argue that a meme is what travels from brain to brain. Digital meme has a narrower interpretation, since it focuses on the textual-pictorial elements. According to the Cognitive Linguistic point of view, the conceptual metaphors, metonymies and blends are used in our everyday conceptualization processes (based on Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By, 1980 and Fauconnier–Turner’s The Way We Think, 2002). So it can be assumed that these digital elements also operate exploiting cognitive devices like metaphors and blends. Yet many questions arise: how can memes be categorized? Can a prototypical meme be identified? How do cognitive processes take place in the conceptualization? What is the source of humor? Based on the analysis performed, it can be concluded that there are prototypical memes, but different aspects have to be taken into account; and that the complexity of cognitive processes a meme operates with is strongly related to the viability of the topic that a particular meme is related to.

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