Sociolinguistics of Youth Activism: Implications for The Future of Political Language

Margot Fourcade


From gun control reforms to climate change protests, today’s young activists have been described as ‘louder and more coordinated than [their] predecessors’ (Marris, 2019: 471). This article looks at the linguistic changes at work behind this description: how does their language make youth activists’ voices grow stronger, and how does it help them discuss, mobilise and organise their campaigns. The article begins with a comparison of the language of youth activists today and that of their predecessors, to better assess the extent and nature of these changes. It then analyses the influence of the internet and social media on the political language of contemporary youth. Finally, it considers reactions to youth activist language and reflects upon its implications on the future of political voices. This article aims to bridge the gap between existing literature in the field, which separately contrasts contemporary youth activists with their predecessors, or examines the impact of the internet and social media on their activities. We propose, instead, that focusing on the language of contemporary youth activists, as a legacy and an evolving creative process, on and offline, will provide a better understanding of their impact on the future of political language. We find a nuanced picture, where the linguistic opportunities offered by the internet and social media increase the reach and organisation of contemporary youth activists, but make them look performative and nonchalant, perhaps because they are considered in the terms of traditional politics.


Sociolinguistics, Youth Activism, Internet Language, Political Language

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