Published: March 4, 2023

With Cornell colleague Laura Niemi, a moral psychologist, I organized a panel session at the Linguistic Society of America in Denver in January 2023. The session title was "Organizing and Influencing Ideology: Social Semiotic Syntax as an Approach to Human Ideological and Moral Frameworks". We used the panel to introduce a framework that we call Social Semiotic Syntax. In this framework, we ask how syntactic structures may be employed to further semantic construals associated with situated social vantage points (Gal & Irvine 2019). A compelling illustration is found in Lee 2021: when Twitter users with “blacklivesmatter” in their profiles apply the property racist to someone or something, it tends to be attributive (e.g., racist wall). When Twitter users with “MAGA” in their profiles use racist, it tends to be predicative (e.g., I’m no racist). For Lee, this divergence reflects two different ideologies of racism held by the two respective groups; while the former view racism as a societal state of affairs, the latter view it as an isolated set of acts driven by racist intent. Our goal in the symposium was to provide comparably thick semantic descriptions of words, concepts and constructions used to (re)construct ideological frameworks (Woolard 1998) and social meanings (Hall-Lew et al 2021). The topics examined ranged from the relationship between encoding of causal events and victim blaming (Laura Niemi); to the relationship between ideologies of racism and the use of particular predicative constructions (Rebecca Lee); to maternal metaphors in dairy industry propaganda (Ivy Gilbert with Laura Niemi); to the alt-right’s use of the medieval frame of cuckoldry to describe political capitulation (Maureen Kosse, with Laura Michaelis).