The first chapter of my dissertation is entitled "What Dogwhistling Does". Here's the abstract:
Dogwhistling is a type of strategic communication. It is used widely by politicians in order to persuade and motivate people. A common example of dogwhistling is the phrase "inner city", which carries racial connotations despite the literal words referring merely to a city’s geographic center. In so far as political communication aims to influence its audience in some way and dogwhistling is a tool used to do so, it’s useful to determine the kind of influence that dogwhistling might have on its audience. The current answer to this question in the literature is that dogwhistles covertly signal to insiders without alerting outsiders that they are doing so. This view overlooks the main impact that dogwhistles have on their audience: they validate and encourage the ingroup bias of insiders without alerting the insiders themselves. Dogwhistling can have this impact even if insiders are actively trying to minimize their ingroup bias. For instance dogwhistles are often used to frame issues in terms of race and generate racial hostility while allowing constituents to think of themselves as non-racist.
I'm always grateful for feedback; please email me if you'd like a copy.
I'm also working on two other chapters, about physical speech acts and how meaningfulness (and meaninglessness) can be determined by social norms.