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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Jenny Cheshire Lecture 2021 - Ideological work: How linguistic practices gain and lose authority (and for whom) - Prof. Susan Gal

When: Thursday, June 3, 2021, 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Where: Online,

Speaker: Susan Gal (University of Chicago)

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We are delighted to announce that Susan Gal, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics, and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, is this year's speaker at the annual Jenny Cheshire lecture. The lecture will run from 16:30-17:30, followed by a 30 minute Q&A.

Ideologies are not doctrines, policies, or creeds; they are forms of interpretation (uptake) that rely on presuppositions and on unspoken value judgments. Differentiations among possible uptakes create positionalities in the social world, signaled by speakers through register differences. How do ideological presuppositions endow some linguistic practices with authority, while stripping authority from others? In this lecture, I consider one text and its enabling ideological work that is losing authority, at least for some: a beloved translation of Winnie-the- Pooh into Hungarian. In contrast, a second example is a discursive practice one that opposes what it labels as "genderism," or "gender ideology," and is gaining authority in Hungary, across Europe, and Latin America. Sociolinguistic theories have revealed several processes that establish linguistic authority: Standardization and its institutional supports authorize linguistic practices via ideologies of correctness. The performativity of rituals establishes the legitimacy of what is ritually transformed, as in marriage speech acts. And one site of linguistic practice can interdiscursively anchor another and thus authorize it, as in baptism or licensing. But my two examples differ from these. The first example involves changing ideological presuppositions about the intertextual practice of translation. In the second, the authority of the discourse of "anti-gender" its persuasiveness for some audiences is achieved, I argue, through a process of grafting. The discourse paradoxically "rides on" the authority of widely accepted, dominant values like rights and gender equality, while undermining and opposing them.