Reclamation

Taking Back Control of Words

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien
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  • 1 Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft

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Reclamation is the phenomenon of an oppressed group repurposing language to its own ends. A case study is reclamation of slur words. argued that a slurring utterance is a speech act which performs a discourse role assignment. It assigns a subordinate role to the target, while the speaker assumes a dominant role. This pair of role assignments is used to oppress the target. Here the author focuses on how reclamation works and under what conditions its benefits can stabilise. She starts by reviewing the data and describing preconditions and motivations for reclamation. Can reclamation be explained in the same basic framework as regular slurring utterances? She argues that it can. The author also identifies some features that must be a prediction of any theory of reclamation. She concludes that reclamation is an instance of a much broader class of acts we do with words to change the distribution of power: it begets power, but it also requires it.

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