Skip to main content Accessibility help

Semiotic spaces in antidiscriminatory political discourse: Naming practices as indexes

  • Mats Landqvist (a1)


This article explores the semiotic spaces occupied by organizations working against discrimination in Sweden. Expressions of identity, norm critique, and political goals are studied in relation to word production and language policy and planning. The study departs from interviews with representatives from three organizations within the hbtqi, antiracist, and disability movements. Other resources connected to them have also been analyzed, such as glossaries. Theoretically, this study draws on Yuri Lotman's concept of semiospheres, allowing the analysis to weigh in the whole semiotic process, including meaning production, policy work, and concrete word production. This approach completes an analysis of indexical orders. The results show that (a) organizations are aware of the importance of linguistic choices, (b) when new concepts and words are spread to the public, tension can arise and sometimes objections, and (c) word meanings change when used in public discourse. (Language policy and planning, semiosphere, indexical order, hbtqi, antiracism, disability, discrimination)


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Mats Landqvist Södertörn UniversitySchool of Culture and LearningAlfred Nobels Allé 1514189 Huddinge,


Hide All
Ahmed, Sara (2006). The nonperformativity of antiracism. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 7(1):104–26.
Alexandersson, AnnaSofia (2015). Crip is hip: En intervjustudie om funktionsvarierades aktivism och motståndsstrategier i Göteborg. Göteborgs: Göteborgs universitet, Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper Genusvetenskap thesis.
Allan, Keith, & Burridge, Kate (1991). Euphemism and dysphemism: Language used as shield and weapon. New York: Oxford University Press.
Althusser, Louis (2006). Ideology and ideological state apparatuses (notes towards an investigation). In Sharma, Aradhana & Gupta, Akhil (eds.), The anthropology of the state: A reader, 8698. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th edn. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th edn. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Bakhtin, Mikhail M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Blommaert, Jan (2015). Chronotopes, scales, and complexity in the study of language in society. Annual Review of Anthropology 44(1):105–16.
Butler, Judith (1997). Excitable speech: A politics of the performative. New York: Routledge.
Butler, Judith (2011a). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex. Abingdon: Routledge.
Butler, Judith (2011b). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.
Cameron, Deborah (1995). Verbal hygiene. London: Routledge.
Cameron, Deborah (2003). Gender and language ideologies. In Holmes, Janet & Meyerhoff, Miriam (eds.), The handbook of language and gender, 447–67. Hong Kong: Blackwell.
Cameron, Deborah (2006). Ideology and language. Journal of Political Ideologies 11(2):141–52.
Campbell, Fiona A. Kumari (2008). Exploring internalized ableism using critical race theory. Disability & Society 23(2):151–62.
Cooper, Robert L. (1989). Language planning and social change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cosenza, Julie (2010). SLOW: Crip theory, dyslexia and the borderlands of disability and ablebodiedness. Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies 6(2):111.
Daniels, Jessie (2016). White lies: Race, class, gender and sexuality in white supremacist discourse. New York: Routledge.
Davidson, Deanna (2007). East spaces in West times: Deictic reference and political self-positioning in a post-socialist East German chronotope. Language & Communication 27(3):212–26.
Del Vicario, Michela (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(3):554–59.
Devlieger, Patrick J. (1999). From handicap to disability: Language use and cultural meaning in the United States. Disability and Rehabilitation 21(7):346–54.
Dunn, Dana S., & Andrews, Erin E. (2015). Person-first and identity-first language: Developing psychologists' cultural competence using disability language. American Psychologist 70(3):255–64.
Fairclough, Norman (1992). Language and social change. Cambridge: Polity.
Fairclough, Norman (2003). Political correctness: The politics of culture and language. Discourse & Society 14(1):1728.
Fairclough, Norman (2015). Critical language awareness. New York: Routledge.
Foucault, Michel (1982). The subject and power. Critical Inquiry 8(4):777–95.
Hornscheidt, Lann, & Landqvist, Mats (2014). Språk och diskriminering. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
Irvine, Judith T. (2001). Style as distinctiveness: The culture and ideology of linguistic differentiation. In Eckert, Penelope & Rickford, John R. (eds.), Style and sociolinguistic variation, 2143. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Irvine, Judith T., & Gal, Susan (2009). Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In Alessandro Duranti (ed.), Linguistic anthropology: A reader, 402–34. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Jette, Alan M. (2006). Toward a common language for function, disability, and health. Physical Therapy 86(5):726–34.
Kailes, June Isaacson (2010). Language is more than a trivial concern! 10th edn. Pomona, CA: Harris Family Center for Disability and Health Policy. Online:
Kostogriz, Alex (2006). Putting ‘space’ on the agenda of sociocultural research. Mind, Culture, and Activity 13(3):176–90.
Landqvist, Mats (2015a). A professional-cultural approach to discrimination: Constructions of police discrimination in two European countries. Journal of Multicultural Discourses 10(3):313–31.
Landqvist, Mats (2015b). Vad är språklig diskriminering? En analytisk prövning av några pejoriseringsteorier. In Landqvist, Mats (ed.), Från social kategorisering till diskriminering: Fyra studier av språk och diskriminering och ett modellförslag, 97122. Huddinge: Södertörns högskola.
Landqvist, Mats (2018). Språkpolitik som ett inslag i kampen mot diskriminering. Språk & Stil 28:176202.
Lorcan, Kenny; Hattersley, Caroline; Molins, Bonnie; Buckley, Carole; Povey, Carol; & Pellicano, Elizabeth (2016). Which terms should be used to describe autism? Perspectives from the UK autism community. Autism 20(4):442–62.
Lotman, Juri (2005). On the semiosphere. Sign Systems Studies 33(1):205–29.
Lotman, Mikhail (2002). Umwelt and semiosphere. Sign Systems Studies 30(1):3340.
Lotman, Yuri M. (1990). Universe of the mind: A semiotic theory of culture. London: I. B. Taurus.
Lykke, Nina (2010). Feminist studies: A guide to intersectional theory, methodology and writing. New York: Routledge.
Mey, Jacob L. (2001). Pragmatics: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Meyer, Jenny (2016). Unik studie visar på ökande boendesegregation i svenska storstäder [Press release]. Online:
Milani, Tommaso M. (2013) Are ‘queers’ really ‘queer’? Language, identity and same-sex desire in a South African online community. Discourse & Society 24(5):615–33.
Milles, Karin (2006). En jämställd kroppsdel? Om lanseringen av ett neutralt ord för flickors könsorgan. Språk & Stil 16:149–77.
Milles, Karin (2013). En öppning i en sluten ordklass? Den nya användningen av pronomenet hen. Språk & Stil 23:107–40.
Mills, Sara (2003). Caught between sexism, anti-sexism and ‘political correctness’: Feminist women's negotiations with naming practices. Discourse & Society 14(1):87110.
Mills, Sara (2007). Geography, gender and power. In Crampton, Jeremy W. & Elden, Stuart (eds.), Space, knowledge and power: Foucault and geography, 4951. Hampshire: Ashgate.
Myers, Anna M., & Rothblum, Esther D. (2005). Coping with prejudice and discrimination based on weight. In Chin, Jean Lau (ed.), The psychology of prejudice and discrimination: Disability, religion, physique, and other traits, 112–34. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Ochs, Elinor (1996). Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pauwels, Anne (1998). Women changing language. London: Longman.
Pauwels, Anne (2003). Linguistic sexism and feminist linguistic activism. In Holmes, Janet & Meyerhoff, Miriam, (eds.), The handbook of language and gender, 550–70. Hong Kong: Blackwell.
Michael, Silverstein (2003). Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language & Communication 23:193229.
Sinclair, Jim (2013). Why I dislike ‘person first’ language. Autonomy, the Critical Journal of Interdisciplinary Autism Studies 1(2):12.
Sprachpraxis, AK Feministische (2011). Feminismus schreiben lernen. (Tranzdisziplinäre Genderstudien 3.) Frankfurt: Brandes & Apsel.
Tomlinson, Matt, & Millie, Julian (2017). Introduction: Imagining the monologic. In Tomlinson, Matt & Millie, Julian (eds.), The monologic imagination, 118. New York: Oxford University Press.
Torop, Peeter (2005). Semiosphere and/as the research object of semiotics of culture. Sign Systems Studies 33(1):159–71.
Urban, Greg (2017). Cultural replication: The source of monological and dialogical models of culture. In Tomlinson, Matt & Millie, Julian (eds.), The monologic imagination, 1946. New York: Oxford University Press.
Vogel, Anna (2010). Laddade ord. In Svenskans beskrivning 30: Förhandlingar vid Trettionde sammankomsten för svenskans beskrivning, Stockholm den 10 och 11 oktober, 358–67. Stockholm: Institutionen för nordiska språk, Stockholms universitet.
Vogel, Anna (2014). Laddade ord: Hur nya uttryck, som kategoriserar människor, tas in i svenskan. Språk & Stil 24:72100.
Wirtz, Kristina (2017). With unity we will be victorious! A monologic poetics of political ‘conscientization’ within the Cuban revolution. In Tomlinson, Matt & Millie, Julian (eds.), The monologic imagination, 89120. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wojahn, Daniel (2015). Språkaktivism: Diskussioner om feministiska språkförändringar i Sverige från 1960-talet till 2015. Uppsala: Uppsala universitet dissertation.
Woolard, Kathryn A. (2013). Is the personal political? Chronotopes and changing stances toward Catalan language and identity. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 16(2):210–24.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed