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The Pragmatics of Slurs

Noûs 51 (3):439-462 (2017)

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  1. Political Vandalism as Counter‐Speech: A Defense of Defacing and Destroying Tainted Monuments.Ten‐Herng Lai - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (3):602-616.
    Tainted political symbols ought to be confronted, removed, or at least recontextualized. Despite the best efforts to achieve this, however, official actions on tainted symbols often fail to take place. In such cases, I argue that political vandalism—the unauthorized defacement, destruction, or removal of political symbols—may be morally permissible or even obligatory. This is when, and insofar as, political vandalism serves as fitting counter-speech that undermines the authority of tainted symbols in ways that match their publicity, refuses to let them (...)
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  • Paving the Road to Hell: The Spanish Word Menas as a Case Study.José Ramón Torices & David Bordonaba - 2021 - Daimon: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 84:47-62.
    Menas is a term that has attracted a great deal of attention on the political scene in Spain at present. Although the term had a neutral usage originally, being an acronym for unaccompanied foreign minors, it has recently evolved into a term with clear negative connotations. This article explores what kind of term menas is today. Specifically, we will examine whether menas is a slur or an ESTI, an ethnic/social term used as an insult. First, we point out the most (...)
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  • Slurs, Neutral Counterparts, and What You Could Have Said.Arianna Falbo - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy 1.
    Recent pragmatic accounts of slurs argue that the offensiveness of slurs is generated by a speaker's free choice to use a slur opposed to a more appropriate and semantically equivalent neutral counterpart. I argue that the theoretical role of neutral counterparts on such views is overstated. I consider two recent pragmatic analyses, Bolinger (2017) and Nunberg (2018), which rely heavily upon the optionality of slurs, namely, that a speaker exercises a deliberate lexical choice to use a slur when they could (...)
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  • Of Witches and White Folks.Daniel Wodak - forthcoming - Wiley: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    A central debate in philosophy of race is between eliminativists and conservationists about what we ought do with ‘race’ talk. ‘Eliminativism’ is often defined such that it’s committed to holding that (a) ‘race’ is vacuous and races don’t exist, so (b) we should eliminate the term ‘race’ from our vocabulary. As a stipulative definition, that’s fine. But as an account of one of the main theoretical options in the debate, it’s a serious mistake. I offer three arguments for why eliminativism (...)
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  • Slurs under quotation.Stefan Rinner & Alexander Hieke - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-12.
    Against content theories of slurs, according to which slurs have some kind of derogatory content, Anderson and Lepore have objected that they cannot explain that even slurs under quotation can cause offense. If slurs had some kind of derogatory content, the argument goes, quotation would render this content inert and, thus, quoted slurs should not be offensive. Following this, Anderson and Lepore propose that slurs are offensive because they are prohibited words. In this paper, we will show that, pace Anderson (...)
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  • Conceptual Engineering in Philosophy.Matti Eklund - 2021 - In Justin Khoo & Rachel Sterken (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy of Language.
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  • When is It Ok to Call Someone a Jerk? An Experimental Investigation of Expressives.Bianca Cepollaro, Filippo Domaneschi & Isidora Stojanovic - 2020 - Synthese 198 (10):9273-9292.
    We present two experimental studies on the Italian expressive ‘stronzo’. The first study tests whether, and to which extent, the acceptability of using an expressive is sensitive to the information available in the context. The study looks both at referential uses of expressives and predicative uses of expressives. The results show that expressives are sensitive to contextual information to a much higher degree than the non-expressive control items in their referential use, but also, albeit to a lesser degree, in their (...)
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  • What’s Wrong with Truth-Conditional Accounts of Slurs.Bianca Cepollaro & Tristan Thommen - 2019 - Linguistics and Philosophy 42 (4):333-347.
    The aim of this paper is to provide arguments based on linguistic evidence that discard a truth-conditional analysis of slurs and pave the way for more promising approaches. We consider Hom and May’s version of TCA, according to which the derogatory content of slurs is part of their truth-conditional meaning such that, when slurs are embedded under semantic operators such as negation, there is no derogatory content that projects out of the embedding. In order to support this view, Hom and (...)
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  • Toward a Theory of Concept Mastery: The Recognition View.Gabriel Oak Rabin - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85 (3):627-648.
    Agents can think using concepts they do not fully understand. This paper investigates the question “Under what conditions does a thinker fully understand, or have mastery of, a concept?” I lay out a gauntlet of problems and desiderata with which any theory of concept mastery must cope. I use these considerations to argue against three views of concept mastery, according to which mastery is a matter of holding certain beliefs, being disposed to make certain inferences, or having certain intuitions. None (...)
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  • Epistemic Injustice in Social Cognition.Wesley Buckwalter - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (2):294-308.
    ABSTRACTSilencing is a practice that disrupts linguistic and communicative acts, but its relationship to knowledge and justice is not fully understood. Prior models of epistemic injustice tend to c...
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  • The Moral Grounds of Reasonably Mistaken Self-Defense.Renée Jorgensen Bolinger - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1):140-156.
    Some, but not all, of the mistakes a person makes when acting in apparently necessary self-defense are reasonable: we take them not to violate the rights of the apparent aggressor. I argue that this is explained by duties grounded in agents' entitlements to a fair distribution of the risk of suffering unjust harm. I suggest that the content of these duties is filled in by a social signaling norm, and offer some moral constraints on the form such a norm can (...)
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  • What Am I, a Piece of Meat? Synecdochical Utterances Targeting Women.Amanda McMullen - 2021 - Feminist Philosophy Quarterly 7 (1).
    In a September 2004 interview, Donald Trump agreed with Howard Stern’s statement that his daughter Ivanka is “a piece of ass.” This utterance is a synecdochical utterance targeting women, by which I mean that its form is such that a term for an anatomical part is predicated of, or could be used by a speaker to refer to, a woman. I propound a theory of what SUTW speakers do in undertaking an SUTW on which the SUTW speaker prompts the hearer (...)
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  • Hybrid Evaluatives: In Defense of a Presuppositional Account.Bianca Cepollaro & Isidora Stojanovic - 2016 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 93 (3):458-488.
    In this paper, the authors present a presuppositional account for a class of evaluative terms that encode both a descriptive and an evaluative component: slurs and thick terms. The authors discuss several issues related to the hybrid nature of these terms, such as their projective behavior, the ways in which one may reject their evaluative content, and the ways in which evaluative content is entailed or implicated (as the case may be) by the use of such terms.
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  • More on Pejorative Language: Insults That Go Beyond Their Extension.Elena Castroviejo, Katherine Fraser & Agustín Vicente - 2020 - Synthese 198 (10):9139-9164.
    Slurs have become a big topic of discussion both in philosophy and in linguistics. Slurs are usually characterised as pejorative terms, co-extensional with other, neutral, terms referring to ethnic or social groups. However, slurs are not the only ethnic/social words with pejorative senses. Our aim in this paper is to introduce a different kind of pejoratives, which we will call “ethnic/social terms used as insults”, as exemplified in Spanish, though present in many other languages and mostly absent in English. These (...)
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  • Slurs and Expressive Commitments.Leopold Hess - 2020 - Acta Analytica 36 (2):263-290.
    Most accounts of the derogatory meaning of slurs are semantic. Recently, Nunberg proposed a purely pragmatic account offering a compelling picture of the relation between derogatory content and social context. Nunberg posits that the semantic content of slurs is identical to that of neutral counterparts, and that derogation is a result of the association of slur use with linguistic conventions of bigoted speakers. The mechanism responsible for it is a special kind of conversational implicature. However, this paper argues that Nunberg’s (...)
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  • Toward a Theory of Offense: Should You Feel Offended?Chang Liu - 2021 - Philosophy 96 (4):625-649.
    The feeling of being offended, as a moral emotion, plays a key role in issues such as slurs, the offense principle, ethics of humor, etc. However, no adequate theory of offense has been developed in the literature, and it remains unclear what questions such a theory should answer. This paper attempts to fill the gap by performing two tasks. The first task is to clarify and summarize the questions of offense into two kinds, the descriptive questions (e.g., what features differentiate (...)
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  • Semantic Contestations and the Meaning of Politically Significant Terms.Deborah Mühlebach - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (8):788-817.
    In recent discussions on the meaning of derogatory terms, most theorists base their investigations on the assumption that slurring terms could in principle have some neutral, i.e. purely descriptive, counterpart. Lauren Ashwell has recently shown that this assumption does not generalize to gendered slurs. This paper aims to challenge the point and benefit of approaching the meaning of derogatory terms in contrast to their allegedly purely descriptive counterparts. I argue that different discursive practices among different communities of practice sometimes change (...)
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  • Inescapable Articulations: Vessels of Lexical Effects.Una Stojnic & Ernie LePore - forthcoming - Noûs.
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  • Slurs and Antipresuppositions.Nicolás Lo Guercio - 2021 - Natural Language Semantics 29 (2):377-400.
    It has been observed that when there is competition between alternative sentences with different presuppositional strength, use of the weaker alternative triggers an inference, sometimes called an antipresupposition, to the effect that the presupposition of the stronger alternative is not satisfied. Furthermore, it has been argued that in order to account for antipresuppositions, it is necessary to postulate an independent pragmatic principle called Maximize Presupposition!, which states that the sentence with the stronger presupposition should be preferred whenever its presupposition is (...)
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  • Slurs as ballistic speech.Richard P. Stillman - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    Slurs are words with a well-known tendency to conjure up painful memories and experiences in members of their target communities. Owing to this tendency, it’s widely agreed that one ought to exercise considerable care when even mentioning a slur, so as to avoid needlessly inflicting distressing associations on members of the relevant group. This paper argues that this tendency to evoke distressing associations is precisely what makes slurs impactful verbal weapons. According to the ballistic theory, slurs make such potent insults (...)
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  • What Counts as an Insult?Ivan Milić - 2018 - Acta Analytica 33 (4):539-552.
    In virtue of what does a linguistic act count as an insult? I discuss five main approaches to this question, according to which an insult is determined by (i) the semantic properties of the expression used; (ii) the insulter, her intention, or attitudes; (iii) the addressee and her personal standard; (iv) the features of the speech act performed; and (v) the standard of the relevant social group. I endorse the last, objectivist account, according to which an act x counts as (...)
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  • Epistemic Slurs: A Novel Explicandum and Adequacy Constraint for Slur Theories.Adam Patterson - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    I argue that there are slurs that are distinctly derogatory insofar as they only derogate their target’s epistemic faculties or capacities qua group member. I call these slurs epistemic slurs. Given that slur theories should explain the derogatory nature of all slurs, any comprehensive slur theory should be able to explain the derogatory nature of the epistemic slurs. I argue, however, that two particular expressivist theories of slurs cannot explain their distinctive derogatory nature. The epistemic slurs thus constitute a novel (...)
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  • What is a Slur?Justina Diaz-Legaspe - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1399-1422.
    Although there seems to be an agreement on what slurs are, many authors diverge when it comes to classify some words as such. Hence, many debates would benefit from a technical definition of this term that would allow scholars to clearly distinguish what counts as a slur and what not. Although the paper offers different definitions of the term in order to allow the reader to choose her favorite, I claim that ‘slurs’ is the name given to a grammatical category, (...)
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  • Normalizing Slurs and Out‐Group Slurs: The Case of Referential Restriction.Justina Diaz Legaspe - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (2):234-255.
    The relation between slurs and their neutral counterparts has been put into question recently by the fact that some slurs can be used to refer to subsets of the referential classes determined by their associated counterparts. This paper aims to reinforce this relation by offering a way of explaining referential restriction that distinguishes between two kinds of slurs: those performing a normalizing role upon (some) individuals inside a class (mostly, a gender) and those used to derogate a marginalized out- group.
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  • Slurs and Register: A Case Study in Meaning Pluralism.Justina Diaz-Legaspe, Chang Liu & Robert J. Stainton - 2020 - Mind and Language 35 (2):156-182.
    Most theories of slurs fall into one of two families: those which understand slurring terms to involve special descriptive/informational content (however conveyed), and those which understand them to encode special emotive/expressive content. Our view is that both offer essential insights, but that part of what sets slurs apart is use-theoretic content. In particular, we urge that slurring words belong at the intersection of a number of categories in a sociolinguistic register taxonomy, one that usually includes [+slang] and [+vulgar] and always (...)
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  • Appropriate Slurs.Ralph DiFranco - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (3):371-384.
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  • Slurs as Illocutionary Force Indicators.Chang Liu - 2020 - Philosophia 49 (3):1051-1065.
    Slurs are derogatory words and they are used to derogate certain groups. Theories of slurs must explain why they are derogatory words, as well as other features like independence and descriptive ineffability. This paper proposes an illocutionary force indicator theory of slurs: they are derogatory terms because their use is to perform the illocutionary act of derogation, which is a declarative illocutionary act to enforce norms against the target. For instance, calling a Chinese person “chink” is an act of derogation (...)
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  • Subordinating Speech and the Construction of Social Hierarchies.Michael Randall Barnes - 2019 - Dissertation, Georgetown University
    This dissertation fits within the literature on subordinating speech and aims to demonstrate that how language subordinates is more complex than has been described by most philosophers. I argue that the harms that subordinating speech inflicts on its targets (chapter one), the type of authority that is exercised by subordinating speakers (chapters two and three), and the expansive variety of subordinating speech acts themselves (chapter three) are all under-developed subjects in need of further refinement—and, in some cases, large paradigm shifts. (...)
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  • Contested Slurs.Renée Jorgensen Bolinger - 2020 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 97 (1):11-30.
    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 (...)
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  • Loaded Words: On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Slurs.Kent Bach - unknown
    There are many mean and nasty things to say about mean and nasty talk, but I don't plan on saying any of them. There's a specific problem about slurring words that I want to address. This is a semantic problem. It's not very important compared to the real-world problems presented by bigotry, racism, discrimination, and worse. It's important only to linguistics and the philosophy of language.
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  • Mean and Nasty Talk: On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Slurs.Kent Bach - unknown
    Group slurs are applied to a whole category of people. Whereas slurs like jerk, creep, and hag are generally directed at individuals because of the personal traits (behavior, personality, looks, etc.), group slurs, like spic, commie, and infidel, are applied across the board to members of a category. Even when directed at a particular individual, ethnic, religious, and political slurs are applied on the basis of group membership rather than anything about the person in particular. Before asking about the meanings (...)
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  • Moral Responsibility for Concepts, Continued: Concepts as Abstract Objects.Rachel Fredericks - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):1029-1043.
    In Fredericks (2018b), I argued that we can be morally responsible for our concepts if they are mental representations. Here, I make a complementary argument for the claim that even if concepts are abstract objects, we can be morally responsible for coming to grasp and for thinking (or not thinking) in terms of them. As before, I take for granted Angela Smith's (2005) rational relations account of moral responsibility, though I think the same conclusion follows from various other accounts. My (...)
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  • Slurs: Departures From Genuine Uses and Derogation.Delia Belleri - 2020 - Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric 62 (1):9-24.
    Some non-appropriated uses of slurs seem to be non–derogatory. In this paper, I argue that in a range of cases, the lack of derogation is owed to the term not being genuinely used. I first examine so–called pedagogical uses and show that they can be assimilated to what I call “distancing uses.” I then turn to a range of other apparently non–derogatory, non–appropriated uses of slurs – such as non–weapon uses, comedic uses – and argue that they can depart from (...)
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  • Thick Ethical Concepts.Pekka Väyrynen - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    [First published 09/2016; substantive revision 02/2021.] Evaluative terms and concepts are often divided into “thin” and “thick”. We don’t evaluate actions and persons merely as good or bad, or right or wrong, but also as kind, courageous, tactful, selfish, boorish, and cruel. The latter evaluative concepts are "descriptively thick": their application somehow involves both evaluation and a substantial amount of non-evaluative description. This article surveys various attempts to answer four fundamental questions about thick terms and concepts. (1) A “combination question”: (...)
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  • Social Identity, Indexicality, and the Appropriation of Slurs.Katherine Ritchie - 2017 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 17 (2):155-180.
    Slurs are expressions that can be used to demean and dehumanize targets based on their membership in racial, ethnic, religious, gender, or sexual orientation groups. Almost all treatments of slurs posit that they have derogatory content of some sort. Such views—which I call content-based—must explain why in cases of appropriation slurs fail to express their standard derogatory contents. A popular strategy is to take appropriated slurs to be ambiguous; they have both a derogatory content and a positive appropriated content. However, (...)
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  • Busting the Ghost of Neutral Counterparts.Jennifer Foster - unknown
    Philosophers have nearly universally assumed that some highly general semantic relationship obtains between slurs and so-called “neutral counterpart” terms. This assumption has been fleshed out in different ways. On all extant accounts, however, it implies an unmotivated distinction between paradigmatic slur/“neutral counterpart” pairs and many pairs that theorists haven’t considered, including `chick flick’/`romantic comedy’, `stoner’/`cannabis user’, and `liberal’/`libtard’. For pairs like these, the most intuitive theory of the target relationship involves overlap––both in (presumed) extension and associated stereotypes. Since (I argue) (...)
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  • Framing Effects and Context in Language Comprehension.Sarah Fisher - 2020 - Dissertation, University of Reading
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  • The Worst and the Best of Propaganda.Bianca Cepollaro & Giuliano Torrengo - 2018 - Disputatio 1 (51):289-303.
    In this paper we discuss two issues addressed by Stanley in How Propaganda Works: the status of slurs (Section 1) and the notion of positive propaganda (Section 2). In particular, in Section 1 we argue contra Stanley that code words like ‘welfare’ are crucially different from slurs in that the association between the lexical item and an additional social meaning is not as systematic as it is for slurs. In this sense, slurs bring about a special kind of propagandistic effect, (...)
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  • Sözcük Sezdirimine Dayalı Nefret Sözcükleri Kuramı.Alper Yavuz - 2018 - Ethos: Dialogues in Philosophy and Social Sciences 11 (2):1-29.
    Özet: Bu yazıda nefret sözcüklerinin dilsel işlevi açıklanmaya çalışılacaktır. Bunun için öncelikle nefret sözcüklerinin kimi özelliklerini tartışıp sonrasında bu özelliklerin tümünün önereceğim sözcük sezdirimine dayalı nefret sözcükleri kuramı ile başarıyla açıklanabileceğini savunacağım. Buna göre nefret sözcükleri sözcük anlamı olarak bir insan grubuna işaret ederken, tipik kullanımlarında kimi olumsuz nitelikleri sözcük düzeyinde sezdirirler. Sözcük sezdirimi kavramı Grice'ın sezdirim kavramının bir tümcecikten daha küçük dilsel yapılara uyarlanmasıyla ortaya çıkar. Bu uyarlamanın olanaklı olduğunun gösterilmesi için Grice’ın tümce düzeyi için tasarladığı ilke ve maksimlerin (...)
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  • Semantic Innocence and Kaplanian Inferences.Pasi Valtonen - 2019 - SATS 20 (1):19-33.
    The core of Christopher Hom and Robert May’s semantic innocence is the thesis that ethnic slurs have empty extensions. Thereby, a slurring term makes any non-negated slurring sentence false. At the same time, Hom and May emphasise that the most important task in the study of slurs is to explain non-xenophobic understanding of slurs. In this paper, I argue that there is a conflict between the two claims. I show this with Kaplanian inferences, which, in my view, are crucial for (...)
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  • What Bigots Do Say: A Reply to DiFranco.Ramiro Caso & Nicolás Lo Guercio - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (4):265-274.
    Neutral Counterpart Theories of slurs hold that the truth-conditional contribution of a slur is the same as the truth-conditional contribution of its neutral counterpart. In, DiFranco argues that these theories, even if plausible for single-word slurs like ‘kike’ and ‘nigger’, are not suitable for complex slurs such as ‘slanty-eyed’ and ‘curry muncher’, figurative slurs like ‘Jewish American Princess’, or iconic slurring expressions like ‘ching chong’. In this paper, we argue that these expressions do not amount to genuine counterexamples to neutral (...)
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  • Slurs, Roles and Power.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt & Jeremy L. Wyatt - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (11):2879-2906.
    Slurring is a kind of hate speech that has various effects. Notable among these is variable offence. Slurs vary in offence across words, uses, and the reactions of audience members. Patterns of offence aren’t adequately explained by current theories. We propose an explanation based on the unjust power imbalance that a slur seeks to achieve. Our starting observation is that in discourse participants take on discourse roles. These are typically inherited from social roles, but only exist during a discourse. A (...)
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  • The Social Life of Slurs.Geoffrey Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
    The words we call slurs are just plain vanilla descriptions like ‘cowboy’ and ‘coat hanger’. They don't semantically convey any disparagement of their referents, whether as content, conventional implicature, presupposition, “coloring” or mode of presentation. What distinguishes 'kraut' and 'German' is metadata rather than meaning: the former is the conventional description for Germans among Germanophobes when they are speaking in that capacity, in the same way 'mad' is the conventional expression that some teenagers use as an intensifier when they’re emphasizing (...)
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  • An Essentialist Theory of the Meaning of Slurs.Eleonore Neufeld - 2019 - Philosophers' Imprint 19.
    In this paper, I develop an essentialist model of the semantics of slurs. I defend the view that slurs are a species of kind terms: Slur concepts encode mini-theories which represent an essence-like element that is causally connected to a set of negatively-valenced stereotypical features of a social group. The truth-conditional contribution of slur nouns can then be captured by the following schema: For a given slur S of a social group G and a person P, S is true of (...)
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  • New Work on Speech Acts. [REVIEW]Eliot Michaelson & Elsa Brisinger - 2019 - Analysis 79 (4):783-790.
    New Work on Speech Acts provides exactly what it purports to: a collection of essays on a wide array of topics falling under the general aegis of speech act theory.1 1 Just as there is little agreement on what exactly speech act theory is, one finds in this volume a wide variety of topics being addressed, and a wide variety of approaches to these topics. What is constant throughout is the sense that, after several decades in near stasis, speech act (...)
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  • Hybrid Accounts of Ethical Thought and Talk.Teemu Toppinen - 2017 - In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. Routledge. pp. 243-259.
    This is a draft of a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, edited by David Plunkett and Tristram McPherson. I offer an overview of hybrid views in metaethics, with main focus on hybrid cognitivist views such as those defended by Daniel Boisvert and David Copp, and on hybrid expressivist views such as those defended by Michael Ridge and myself.
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  • Derogation Without Words: On the Power of Non-Verbal Pejoratives.Ralph DiFranco - 2017 - Philosophical Psychology 30 (6):784-808.
    While a large body of literature on pejorative language has emerged recently, derogatory communication is a broader phenomenon that need not constitutively involve the use of words. This paper delineates the class of non-verbal pejoratives and sketches an account of the derogatory power of a subset of NVPs, namely those whose effectiveness crucially relies on iconicity. Along the way, I point out some ways in which iconic NVPs differ from wholly arbitrary NVPs and ritualized threat signals in the animal kingdom, (...)
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