Series:

Robert Henderson and Elin McCready

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the semantics and pragmatics of dogwhistles, namely expressions that send one message to an outgroup while at the same time sending a second (often taboo, controversial, or inflammatory) message to an ingroup. There are three questions that need to be resolved to understand the semantics and pragmatics of the phenomenon at hand: (i) What kind of meaning is dogwhistle content—implicature, conventional implicature, etc; (ii) are dogwhistles uniform or are their subtypes, and (iii) what is the correct semantic / pragmatic analysis of dogwhistles. In particular, we argue against a conventional implicature-based account of dogwhistles and instead propose an alternative, purely pragmatic, game-theoretic, account combining aspects of McCready 2012, Burnett 2016; 2017. This proposal is used to analysis two, novel subclasses of dogwhistle that we describe.