Meaning that emerges out of text-context relations. Apart from (often) having a denotational meaning, linguistic and other signs are indexical in that they suggest metapragmatic, metalinguistic, metadiscursive features of meaning. Thus, an utterance may indexically invoke social norms, roles, identities.

What is Indexicality

Signs do not just release linguistic meanings, but also sociocultural meanings connecting a sign to a particular sociocultural context and history. This means that we must look at deeper layers of meaning connected to the signs. These layers of meaning might be connected to the three arrows that each sign has:

  • a backward arrow, pointing at the past, i.e. at the producers of the sign in a specific historical time and space and the conditions of production;
  • a forward arrow, pointing at the future, i.e. at the addressees of the sign and the conditions for uptake;
  • and a sideways arrow, pointing at the present, i.e. at the specific emplacement of the sign among other signs (Blommaert & Maly, 2016).


Blommaert, J. and Maly, I. (2016). Ethnographic linguistic landscape analysis and social change: A case study. In Arnaut, K., Blommaert, J., Rampton, B. and Spotti,M. Language and Superdiversity. New York: Routledge.