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New Work on Speech Acts$
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Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris, and Matt Moss

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738831

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198738831.001.0001

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The Social Life of Slurs

The Social Life of Slurs

(p.237) 10 The Social Life of Slurs
New Work on Speech Acts

Geoff Nunberg

Oxford University Press

The words we call slurs are just plain vanilla descriptions. They don’t semantically convey any disparagement of their referents, whether as content, conventional implicature, presupposition, “coloring” or mode of presentation. To use a slur is to exploit the Maxim of Manner to assert one’s affiliation with a group that has a disparaging attitude towards the word’s referent. Kraut is simply the conventional description for Germans among Germanophobes when they are speaking in that capacity. This account explains the familiar properties of slurs, such as their speaker orientation and “nondetachability,” as well as a number of unexplored features, such as the variation in tone among the different slurs for a particular group, with no need of additional linguistic mechanisms.

Keywords:   slurs, derogatives, pejoratives, linguistic convention, conversational implicature

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