Contested Slurs

Delimiting the Linguistic Community

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
View More View Less
  • 1

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):

€29.95$34.95

Sometimes speakers within a linguistic community use a term that they do not conceptualize as a slur, but which other members of that community do. Sometimes these speakers are ignorant or naïve, but not always. This article explores a puzzle raised when some speakers stubbornly maintain that a contested term t is not derogatory. Because the semantic content of a term depends on the language, to say that their use of t is semantically derogatory despite their claims and intentions, we must individuate languages in a way that counts them as speaking our language L, assigns t a determinately derogatory content in L, and still accommodates the other features of slurs’ linguistic profile. Given the difficulty of doing this, there is some reason to give a non-semantic analysis of the derogatory aspect of slurs. The author suggests that rather than dismissing the stubborn as semantically incompetent, we would do better to appeal to expected uptake as moral reasons for the stubborn to adjust their linguistic practices.

  • Allan , Keith & Burridge , Kate 2006. Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge University Press.

  • Anderson , Luvell & Lepore , Ernie 2013. “What Did You Call Me? Slurs as Prohibited Words.” Analytic Philosophy 54, 350363.

  • Armstrong , Josh 2016. “The Problem of Lexical Innovation.” Linguistics and Philosophy 39, 87118.

  • Bach , Kent 2018. “Loaded Words: On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Slurs.” In: Bad Words. Philosophical Perspectives on Slurs, edited by David Sosa, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 6076.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baumgartner , Jason 2015. “I Have Every Publicly Available Reddit Comment for Research. 1.7 Billion Comments at 250 Gb Compressed. Any Interest in This?: Datasets.” {https://www.reddit.com/r/datasets/comments/3bxlg7/i_have_every_publicly_available_reddit_comment/}.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Begby , Endre 2014. “Lexical Norms, Language Comprehension, and the Epistemology of Testimony.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44, 324342.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Begby , Endre 2016. “Deranging the Mental Lexicon.” Inquiry 59, 3355.

  • Blakemore , Diane 2015. “Slurs and Expletives: A Case Against a General Account of Expressive Meaning.” Language Sciences 52, 2235.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bolinger , Renée Jorgensen 2017. “The Pragmatics of Slurs.” Noûs 51, 439462.

  • Burge , Tyler 1979. “Individualism and the Mental.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4, 73121.

  • Camp , Elisabeth 2013. “Slurring Perspectives.” Analytic Philosophy 54, 330349.

  • Camp , Elisabeth 2018. “Slurs as Dual-Act Expressions.” In: Bad Words. Philosophical Perspectives on Slurs, edited by David Sosa , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2959.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cepollaro , Bianca 2015. “In Defence of a Presuppositional Account of Slurs.” Language Sciences 54, 3645.

  • Chomsky , Noam 1975. Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon.

  • Croom , Adam 2011. “Slurs.” Language Sciences 33, 343358.

  • Davidson , Donald 1986. “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs.” In: Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson, edited by Ernest Lepore . Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 433446.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Heck , Richard Kimberly 2006. “Idiolects.” In: Content and Modality: Themes from the Philosophy of Robert Stalnaker, edited by Judith Jarvis Thomson & Alex Byrne . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 6192.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hedger , Joseph 2012. “The Semantics of Racial Slurs: Using Kaplan’s Theory to Provide a Theory of the Meaning of Derogatory Epithets.” Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 11, 7484.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Higginbotham , James 2008. “Languages and Idiolects: Their Language and Ours”. In: Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language, edited by Ernest Lepore & Barry Smith . Oxford University Press, 140150.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hom , Christopher 2008. “The Semantics of Racial Epithets.” The Journal of Philosophy 105, 416440.

  • Hom , Christopher 2010. “Pejoratives.” Philosophy Compass 5, 164185.

  • Hom , Christopher & May , Robert 2013. “Moral and Semantic Innocence.” Analytic Philosophy 54, 293313.

  • Hornsby , Jennifer 2001. “Meaning and Uselessness: How to Think About Derogatory Words.” In: Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Volume 25, Figurative Language, edited by Peter A. French & Howard K. Wettstein . Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 128141.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson , Frank 2010. Languages, Names, and Information. Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Jeshion , Robin 2013a. “Expressivism and the Offensiveness of Slurs.” Philosophical Perspectives 27, 231259.

  • Jeshion , Robin 2013b. “Slurs and Stereotypes.” Analytic Philosophy 54, 239314.

  • Jeshion , Robin 2018. “Slurs, Dehumanization, and the Expression of Contempt.” In: Bad Words. Philosophical Perspectives on Slurs, edited by David Sosa , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 77107.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kaplan , David 1989. “Afterthoughts.” In: Themes from Kaplan, edited by Joseph Almog , John Perry & Howard Wettstein , Oxford University Press, 565614.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kaplan , David 2005. “The Meaning of Ouch and Oops: Explorations in the Theory of Meaning as Use.” Unpublished ms, UCLA.

  • Kripke , Saul 1980. Naming and Necessity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

  • Lassiter , Daniel 2008. “Semantic Externalism, Language Variation, and Sociolinguistic Accommodation.” Mind & Language 23, 607633.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lepore , Ernie , & Stone , Matthew 2017. “Convention Before Communication.” Philosophical Perspectives 31, 245265.

  • Lewis , David 1975. “Languages and Language.” In: Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume vii, edited by Keith Gunderson , Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 335.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lycan , William 2015. “Slurs and Lexical Presupposition.” Language Sciences 52, 311.

  • McCready , Elin 2010. “Varieties of Conventional Implicature.” Semantics & Pragmatics 3, 157.

  • Milroy , James & Milroy , Leslie 1985. “Linguistic Change, Social Network and Speaker Innovation.” Journal of Linguistics 21, 339384.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nunberg , Geoffrey 2018. “The Social Life of Slurs.” In: New Work on Speech Acts, edited by Daniel Fogal , Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 237295.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pullum , Geoffrey 2006. “Ideology, Power, and Linguistic Theory.” Paper presented at the Convention of the Modern Language Association, Philadelphia 2004. http://people.ucsc.edu/~pullum/MLA.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Putnam , Hilary 1975. “The meaning of meaning.” In: Philosophical Papers, Vol 2: Mind, Language and Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Richard , Mark 2008. When Truth Gives Out. Oxford University Press.

  • Saka , Paul 2007. How to Think About Meaning. Springer Netherlands.

  • Schlenker , Philippe 2007. “Expressive Presuppositions.” Theoretical Linguistics 33, 237245.

  • Vallée , Richard 2014. “Slurring and Common Knowledge of Ordinary Language.” Journal of Pragmatics 61, 7890.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 422 296 16
Full Text Views 33 20 1
PDF Views & Downloads 35 22 2