Inside Language: Telltale words, family stories and how to spot totem poles

Rosie Campbell
Campbell Keegan


This paper comprises a short but rather impassioned plea for a (return to) greater 'language intelligence' in the research industry. By this I mean greater exploration, digging under the surface, and insightful analysis of language – the language which pervades our industry, the language in which research is couched, but more centrally, the language which is the medium in which we swim as market researchers; consumers' accounts.

By language, I should stress, that I mean the whole gamut of verbal or written expression, which, of all activity, is the thing that differentiates the human from all other species. (I accept that, in broad terms, I am leaving aside body language and purely visual information, though often the verbal is delivered with the visual) And I should also stress that I am of the semiotic, post-modern, 'socially-constructed', persuasion that the communicative vessels that are our words, phrases, stories and discourses are not necessarily obvious or transparent but rather they are opaque, often symbolic, can signify more (or less) than their defining meanings and, indeed, that what is 'communicated' is a thing which is neither exactly the sent message, nor indeed exactly the received message.