Linguistics and English Language

Language variation and change

Speaker: Dr Jeremy Calder (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Title: The role of community epistemology in indexing social meaning

Abstract: Indexicality theorizes connections between linguistic signs and the social meanings they carry. In variationism, indexicality is conceptualized as a relationship between a particular linguistic variant and a social meaning, and the linguistic variant may have an indexical field, or a range of meanings with which the variant is able to connect. Social meanings and indexical fields are often conceptualized as belonging to linguistic variants in a dyadic manner, such that the linguistic sign is framed as having a meaning or range of meanings associated with it. However, it is rarely explicitly foregrounded that linguistic features can carry different social meanings, or different indexical fields entirely, for different populations. Here, I discuss the importance of the interpretant in discussions of the ways linguistic signs connect to social meanings. A part of the triadic sign proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce in his original formulation of indexicality (e.g., 1985), the interpretant represents the construal of a connection between a sign and an object (Gal & Irvine 2019) by a perceiver. And different perceivers may make different construals for the same sign-vehicle about what social meanings that sign-vehicle connects to. An exploration of the production patterns of the /s/ sound among marginalized communities illuminates the ditransitive nature of indexicality; that is, linguistic variants may carry different indexical fields for different perceiving populations, conditioned by the local epistemologies within which those perceiving populations are embedded.

Contact details

Lauren Hall-Lew

Nov 17 2021 -

Language variation and change

2021-11-17: The role of community epistemology in indexing social meaning

Room 7.01, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD