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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Linguistic Seminar Series - Signaling without Saying: The semantics and pragmatics of dogwhistles

When: Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

Speaker: Elin McCready & Robert Henderson

We have the pleasure to welcome Dr Elin McCready (Aoyama Gakuin University) and Dr Robert Henderson (University of Arizona), who will present each their research.

A dogwhistle is a piece of language that sends one message to an outgroup while at the same time sending a second (often taboo, controversial, or inflammatory) message to an ingroup. We propose an analysis of dogwhistles in the setting of social meaning games that treats them as signaling the persona of the speaker, and in some circumstances enabling an enrichment of the conventional meaning of the expression. We compare this account with views in terms of conventional implicature, invited inference, and classical Gricean implicature. We further show how this formal framework allows, not just an account of dogwhistles, but opens up a way to analyze a variety of sociopragmatic phenomena involving trust, reliability, ideology, standpoints, etc.

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