Inferential patterns of emotive meaning

In Fabrizio Macagno & Alessandro Capone (eds.), Inquiries in Philosophical Pragmatics. Issues in Linguistics. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 83-110 (2021)
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This paper investigates the emotive (or expressive) meaning of words commonly referred to as “loaded” or “emotive,” which include slurs, derogative or pejorative words, and ethical terms. We claim that emotive meaning can be reinterpreted from a pragmatic and argumentative perspective, which can account for distinct aspects of ethical terms, including the possibility of being modified and its cancellability. Emotive meaning is explained as a defeasible and automatic or automatized evaluative and intended inference commonly associated with the use of specific terms, which can be represented and assessed considering its logical structure and its defeasibility conditions. This automatic inference is conceived as part of the connotation of an ethical term, and is not necessarily stable. By means of quasi-definitions, it is possible to modify the emotive meaning while maintaining the descriptive one, automaticizing the inferences drawn from an ethical word. Through examples drawn from the recent US presidential campaign, we show how re-contextualization and emotive contexts can affect emotive meaning.
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