The Pragmatics of Slurs

Noûs 51 (3):439-462 (2017)
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Abstract

I argue that the offense generation pattern of slurring terms parallels that of impoliteness behaviors, and is best explained by appeal to similar purely pragmatic mechanisms. In choosing to use a slurring term rather than its neutral counterpart, the speaker signals that she endorses the term. Such an endorsement warrants offense, and consequently slurs generate offense whenever a speaker's use demonstrates a contrastive preference for the slurring term. Since this explanation comes at low theoretical cost and imposes few constraints on an account of the semantics of slurs, this suggests that we should not require semantic accounts to provide an independent explanation of the offense profile.

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Renee Jorgensen
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Citations of this work

The Social Life of Slurs.Geoff Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press. pp. 237–295.
Slurs, roles and power.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt & Jeremy L. Wyatt - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (11):2879-2906.

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References found in this work

Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Kellogg Lewis - 1969 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Signals: Evolution, Learning, and Information.Brian Skyrms - 2010 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Lewis - 1969 - Synthese 26 (1):153-157.
The Social Life of Slurs.Geoff Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press. pp. 237–295.

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