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Signs of Difference
Language and Ideology in Social Life


  • Date Published: June 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108491891

£ 69.99

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About the Authors
  • How are peoples' ideas about languages, ways of speaking and expressive styles shaped by their social positions and values? How is difference, in language and in social life, made - and unmade? How and why are some differences persuasive as the basis for action, while other differences are ignored or erased? Written by two recognised authorities on language and culture, this book argues that ideological work of all kinds is fundamentally communicative, and that social positions, projects and historical moments influence, and are influenced by, people's ideas about communicative practices. Neither true nor false, ideologies are positioned and partial visions of the world, relying on comparison and perspective; they exploit differences in expressive features - linguistic and otherwise - to construct convincing stereotypes of people, spaces and activities. Using detailed ethnographic, historical and contemporary examples, this outstanding book shows readers how to analyse ideological work semiotically.

    • Presents a step-by-step explanation of semiotic processes, using concrete examples, showing how sign relations constitute ideology
    • Draws on fieldwork and historical materials, enabling researchers to engage in ideological analysis and critique by demonstrating its methods
    • Provides a deep semiotic analysis of 'perspective' and 'comparison', fundamental processes of social and linguistic differentiation that motivate historical change
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Systematically mapping out new theoretical and empirical ground, this field-defining book richly develops the promise of Susan Gal and Judith T. Irvine's influential approach to understanding ideologies of linguistic and social difference. In crystal-clear analyses of ethnographic and historical material from Africa, Central Europe, and the United States, they make accessible the interlocking semiotic processes through which ordinary folks and experts alike create consequential contrasts between kinds of people. This landmark study will be essential reading for scholars of social relations well beyond the borders of linguistic anthropology.' Kathryn A. Woolard, University of California, San Diego

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108491891
    • length: 326 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 156 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.6kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus. 8 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Prologue: questions and exhibits
    Part I. Ethnography:
    1. Wolof in Senegal
    2. German-Hungarians in Hungary
    Part II. Semiotics:
    3. Ingredients: signs, conjectures, perspectives
    4. Comparison: the semiotics of differentiation
    5. Dynamics of change in differentiation
    Part III. Sites:
    6. Situating ideological work
    7. Among and between sites
    8. Scales and scale-making: connecting sites
    Part IV. Pasts:
    9. Library to field: ideologies in nineteenth-century linguistic research
    Coda: avenues of inquiry.

  • Authors

    Susan Gal, University of Chicago
    Susan Gal is Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Chicago. She is author of Language Shift (1979) and The Politics of Language (in Hungarian, 2018), as well as co-author with Gail Kligman of Politics of Gender after Socialism (2000) and co-editor with Kathryn Woolard of Languages and Publics: The Making of Authority (2001).

    Judith T. Irvine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    Judith T. Irvine is Edward Sapir Collegiate Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Author of many articles and chapters in linguistic anthropology, she is co-editor with Jane H. Hill of Responsibility and Evidence in Oral Discourse (1993); co-editor with Regna Darnell et al. of the Collected Works of Edward Sapir (1999) and Associate Editor of the journal Language in Society.

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