Microaggression Terminology in Communications on Twitter: A Corpus Linguistic Analysis

Iain Alexander Smith, Amanda Griffiths, Kevin Harvey


Employers are increasingly raising awareness of “microaggressions” in the workplace. However, past research has suggested that microaggression terminology can be divisive. Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional, exchanges that are considered put-downs. This article presents a corpus-based investigation to understand how people use microaggression terminology in social and workplace contexts. We compared a novel corpus of 14,636 tweets against a Twitter reference corpus. Microaggressions were described as experienced and dealt with, while the sending of microaggressions was described using intentional verbs such as committing and perpetrating. This variation in language may create a divide between people with different experiences of microaggressions and seem incongruent to unintentional senders. The discourse regarding microaggressions in the workplace tended to be characterized by an impersonal style and nouns replacing verbs. Employers may wish to review their communications about microaggressions to ensure they do not obscure their message through extensive nominalization or density.


microaggression, corpus linguistics, Twitter, workplace, diversity

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