The Edward Sapir Book Prize was established in 2001 and is awarded to a book that makes the most significant contribution to our understanding of language in society, or the ways in which language mediates historical or contemporary sociocultural processes.
Signs of Difference: Language and Ideology in Social Life (Cambridge University Press, 2019) has won the Sapir Prize. This prize is awarded by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology every two years. This book is coauthored with Susan Gal of the University of Chicago.
How are peoples' ideas about languages, ways of speaking and expressive styles shaped by their social positions and values? How is difference, in language and in social life, made - and unmade? How and why are some differences persuasive as the basis for action, while other differences are ignored or erased? Written by two recognised authorities on language and culture, this book argues that ideological work of all kinds is fundamentally communicative, and that social positions, projects and historical moments influence, and are influenced by, people's ideas about communicative practices. Neither true nor false, ideologies are positioned and partial visions of the world, relying on comparison and perspective; they exploit differences in expressive features - linguistic and otherwise - to construct convincing stereotypes of people, spaces and activities. Using detailed ethnographic, historical and contemporary examples, this outstanding book shows readers how to analyse ideological work semiotically.