Linguistic Imposters

The Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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There is a widespread phenomenon that we call linguistic imposters. Linguistic imposters are systematic misuses of expressions that misusers mistake with their conventional usages because of misunderstanding their meaning. Our paper aims to provide an initial framework for theorizing about linguistic imposters that will lay the foundation for future philosophical research about them. We focus on the misuses of the expressions 'grooming' and 'critical race theory' as our central examples of linguistic imposters. We show that linguistic imposters present a distinctive phenomenon by comparing them to some adjacent phenomena, namely conceptual engineering, linguistic hijacking, and dogwhistles. We also address four objections about the extensional adequacy of our definition of linguistic imposters. Finally, we argue that, as linguistic imposters spread, they make some inferences featuring misused expressions more cognitively accessible and seemingly socially licensed to misusers and discuss four types of harms that linguistic imposters are conducive to through these effects.

Author Profiles

Denis Kazankov
Central European University


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