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Four Implicit Meanings and Racism in Political Advertising Jan Chovanec

Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic


The chapter deals with implicit meanings in political advertising. It argues that an adequate interpretation of some messages, particularly those that appear vague, ambiguous and semantically indeterminate, needs to be contextualized with reference to diverse extra-linguistic variables. These include shared presuppositions, institutional frames, genre constraints, as well as socio-cultural background, which may involve, among other things, knowledge of the speaker’s discursive history. Within such a context, words and other extra-linguistic signs may yield the relevant meanings which-though deniable by the speaker-constitute interpretations that are contextually plausible. Based on an analysis of an election slogan by a politician ill-famed for racist remarks and actions in the past, the article shows that a message can ambiguously convey preferred overt and covert meanings, with the latter potentially deniable once the recipients arrive at meanings that are dispreferred and excessively face-threatening to the speaker. The mechanism identified in the article is a common discursive strategy of racist and other discriminatory discourse, in that such discourse is subtly provocative, yet strives to stay within the limits of public acceptability.

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