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, Signs of Difference: Language and Ideology in Social Life (Cambridge UP, 2019) 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.
Amir Lehman is an MA student in linguistics at UCL.