Abstract

Some linguistic expressions do not have only a referential component, through which they refer to something in the world, but also (or exclusively) a connotative component, through which they express a speaker’s attitudes or feelings toward that which the expressions refer. Pejoratives are connoted expressions through which speakers express a negative attitude toward a person, a class of persons, or a state of affairs. Slurs, in particular, are pejoratives that express negative attitudes toward a class of people sharing the same race, sexual orientation, religion, health status, etc. The use of pejoratives and slurs is often impolite and offensive, but it is not clear to which degree their use in reported speech may also be offensive. On one hand, the reporter does not seem to express contempt toward the target by merely reporting what others have said. On the other hand, reporting a pejorative seems a form of association with the original speaker’s opinion anyway. Different theories on the status of the connotative component of slurs make different predictions about their offensiveness in reported speech. To investigate the matter, a questionnaire was designed with the aim of comparing the offensiveness of slurs and pejoratives directly addressed to their target with their offensiveness when they are used in reported speech. The findings collected through our questionnaire suggest that some of the theories on the connotation of slurs do not account for speakers’ intuitive judgments on the offensiveness of slurs in reported speech.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-291
Number of pages19
JournalCORPUS PRAGMATICS
Volume4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • expressive language
  • offensiveness
  • reported speech
  • slurs and pejoratives

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