mockspanish - Covert Racist Discourse and Indexicality: The...

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Covert Racist Discourse and Indexicality: The case of Mock Spanish
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Forms of “Racist” Language Slurs and stereotyping language are recognized as “racist” by most U.S. English speakers. Negative statements about racialized groups are also recognized by “hedging” (“I’m not a racist, but…”). These are “overt racist discourse”; they are visible to linguistic ideology. However, these “overt” forms of discourse may not be the most important ways that negative stereotypes are reproduced. For instance, Santa Ana points out that, buried in inoffensive texts, or even in texts that purport to be actively anti-racist, we can find metaphorical language that is “racializing”. This is “covert racist discourse.”
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Forms of Racist Language Another form of covert racist discourse is invisible to language ideology, because it works by indexicality. Forms in covert racist discourse entail or presuppose racial stereotypes that are not overtly uttered. The main case I have studied is “Mock Spanish”, but African American English appropriated by Whites functions similarly.
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Indexicality: A Reminder The 19 th C. American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce developed a theory of semiotics in which he recognized three different ways that signs could stand for their objects: 1) Indexical signs stand for their objects by spatiotemporal contiguity, e.g. smoke stands for fire 2) Iconic signs stand for their objects by resemblance, e.g. map for territory 3) Symbolic signs stand for their objects by convention, e.g. “X” marks the spot
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Indexicality: A Reminder Language is often thought of as mainly “symbolic,” but in fact there are many indexical signs in language. Indexical signs are “shifters”: They require context for interpretation. For instance, to retrieve the meaning of “yesterday”, we need to know when the word was uttered. Note that when someone says “yesterday” the context of utterance, “today”, must be there. Saying “yesterday” can be said to index “today.” (Technically, it “presupposes” it – you cannot say “yesterday” unless there is a “today” to say it in).
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Indexicality: A Reminder Some indexical signs do another job: Rather than “presuppose”, they “create” (or “entail”). The so-called “social indexicals”, markers of deference and dominance, do this. Consider a classic case in racism: The denial of standard deference indexicals such as “Mister”, “Doctor,” etc. to adult African-American men, who were instead addressed as “Boy” or by their first name. This usage repeatedly creates/entails that the man so addressed is of much lower status than the speaker, even if by non-racialized standards he would be of higher status .
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This note was uploaded on 05/06/2009 for the course ANTH 276 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Arizona- Tucson.

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mockspanish - Covert Racist Discourse and Indexicality: The...

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