A simple theory of overt and covert dogwhistles

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Politicians select their words meticulously, never losing sight of their ultimate communicative goal. Sometimes, their objective may be that of not being fully understood by a large portion of the audience. They can achieve this by means of dogwhistles; linguistic expressions that, in addition to their literal meaning, convey a concealed message to a specific sub-group of the audience. This paper focuses on the distinction between overt and covert dogwhistles introduced by J. Saul (2018). I argue that, even if the distinction successfully captures a genuine divide within the category of dogwhistles, the account proposed by Saul to explain the distinction is unsatisfactory. In response to this state of affairs, I illustrate how the distinction between overt and covert dogwhistle can be refined and illuminated by incorporating it into the 'Simple Theory' of dogwhistles advanced by J. Khoo (2017).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2023


  • Political communication
  • Dogwhistles
  • Khoo
  • Hate Speech


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