The semantics of slurs: A refutation of pure expressivism

Language Sciences 41:227-242 (2014)
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Abstract
In several recent contributions to the growing literature on slurs, Hedger draws upon Kaplan’s distinction between descriptive and expressive content to argue that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content. The distinction between descriptive and expressive content and the view that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content has been widely acknowledged in prior work, and Hedger aims to contribute to this tradition of scholarship by offering novel arguments in support of his ‘‘pure expressivist’’ account of slurs. But the account that PE offers is explanatorily inadequate, resting on suspect a priori intuitions which also commit one to denying many basic facts about slurs, such as that slurs largely display systematic differential application and that slurs can be used non-offensively between in-group speakers. In this article I provide clear reasons for rejecting PE, arguing particularly against Hedger as one of PE’s most explicit and recent proponents. In showing that PE is inadequate in at least 11 ways, I argue in favor of a mixed or hybrid approach
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First archival date: 2014-04-16
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