Susan Gal- Language Ideologies

Gal, S. (2004). Language Ideologies compared: metaphors of public/private. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(1), 23-37.

Gal’s article examines how language in and about public/private space ultimately feeds into creating differentiation between groups. She doesn’t go further into the reality of creating this difference (it’s beyond the scope of her study), but she does examine the linguistic measures of fractal recursions and erasure.

24- Because the ideology of public/private divides spaces, moralities, types of people, activities, and linguistic practices into opposed categories, it was useful to consider it a language ideology of differentiation.

Different linguistic ideologies pick out as public or private differ- ent aspects of the many indexical signs that appear in real-time interaction.

25-  In each case, but in contrasting ways, the semiotic form of the public/private distinction is politically consequential: it disguises power relations, evokes characteristic anxieties, and sometimes shapes novel political imaginings.

26- Hill outlines four dimensions that frame an interaction as public or private in U.S. folk theory: the space in which the talk occurs (e.g., classroom vs. domestic establish- ment), the topics and themes involved (e.g., “wife beating” vs. “domestic violence”), the speaker (e.g., unimportant individual vs. officeholder or celebrity), and the style of speech (e.g., keyed as emotional vs. serious).

26- Judith Irvine and I have identified a tripartite semiotic process by which—we argue—language ideologies of differentiation operate. One key aspect of ideologies of differentiation is that they pick out qualities supposedly shared by the social image (in this case, aspects of the categories of persons, themes, spaces, and moral attributes) and the linguistic image (in this case, aspects of style and interaction) and bind them together in a linkage that appears from the perspective of the ideology to be inherent and particularly apt.

Differentiation, fractal recursivity, erasure:  Fractal recursions involve the projection of an opposition, salient at one level of relationship onto some other level. Erasures are forms of forgetting, denying, ignoring, or forcibly eliminating those distinctions or social facts that fail to fit the picture of the world presented by an ideology.

28- the ubiquity of fractal recursions in the application of these lexical items shows them to be shifters. Their denotation is not fixed but changes systematically with the comparative frame that is presupposed or entailed in the context of use.

29- This question requires highlighting a further processual moment in which the effects of deictic signaling (“here/I/we” vs. “there/them”) are interpreted as exemplars of the cultural categories of “private” and “public,” which in turn provides the possibility of labeling and metaphorical extensions.

30- in Eastern Europe too, this distinction was part of a language ideology. The imperative to be honest and responsible in the private contrasted with distrust and duplicity in dealings with public institutions. Public talk was understood to be insincere and empty, mere political cliché requiring dissimulation (by the performer) and decoding (by audience or addressee).

32- Eastern European metaphors personified the distinction rather than spatializing it. If public and private are projections or objectifications derived from indexicals that create an interactional here/I/we as against a there/them, then the Eastern European examples thematized personal deictics rather than spatial ones.

The dichotomy of “we as victims” versus “they who have the power” can be recursively applied, so that any imagined assembly of “us” can be divided further into an “us” and a “them.”

33-My goal in this article has been to use this historically created similarity-in-difference to explore the role of metaphors and anchoring in the process by which language ideologies construct differentiation.


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