The openness of words to more than one interpretation. A notion advanced by Voloshinov and/or Bakhtin in 1929 in response to the alleged fixity of meaning in Saussure's conception of language. Verbal meanings are subject to historical changes and are a site of struggle between different social groups in particular sociohistorical contexts (e.g. in relation to ‘black’ or ‘queer’). Language is never neutral. ‘Whenever a sign is present, ideology is present, too.’ Dominant groups seek to fix meanings: they seek to decide what constitutes ‘extremism’, for instance. Compare polysemy.
Subjects: Literature — Media Studies.