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The Social Life of Slurs

In Daniel Fogal, Daniel Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press (2018)

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  1. Meaning and Uselessness: How to Think About Derogatory Words.Jennifer Hornsby - 2001 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 25 (1):128–141.
    Williams explains why there might have been some point to a linguistic approach in ethics. I suggest that there might be some point to paying attention to an ethical dimension in philosophy of language. I shall consider words that I label ‘derogatory’, and questions they raise about linguistic meaning.
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  • On Social Facts.Margaret Gilbert - 1989 - Ethics 102 (4):853-856.
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  • Moral and Semantic Innocence.Christopher Hom & Robert May - 2013 - Analytic Philosophy 54 (3):293-313.
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  • When Truth Gives Out.Mark Richard - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
    Is the point of belief and assertion invariably to think or say something true? Is the truth of a belief or assertion absolute, or is it only relative to human interests? Most philosophers think it incoherent to profess to believe something but not think it true, or to say that some of the things we believe are only relatively true. Common sense disagrees. It sees many opinions, such as those about matters of taste, as neither true nor false; it takes (...)
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  • The Expressive Dimension.Christopher Potts - 2007 - Theoretical Linguistics 33 (2):165-198.
    Expressives like damn and bastard have, when uttered, an immediate and powerful impact on the context. They are performative, often destructively so. They are revealing of the perspective from which the utterance is made, and they can have a dramatic impact on how current and future utterances are perceived. This, despite the fact that speakers are invariably hard-pressed to articulate what they mean. I develop a general theory of these volatile, indispensable meanings. The theory is built around a class of (...)
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  • Do Racists Speak Truly? On the Truth‐Conditional Content of Slurs.Ralph DiFranco - 2015 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 4 (1):28-37.
    Slurs denigrate individuals qua members of certain groups, such as race or sexual orientation. Most theorists hold that each slur has a neutral counterpart, i.e., a term that references the slur's target group without denigrating them. According to a widely accepted view, which I call ‘Neutral Counterpart Theory’, the truth-conditional content of a slur is identical to the truth-conditional content of its neutral counterpart. My aim is to challenge this view. I argue that the view fails with respect to slurs (...)
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  • Reference, Inference and the Semantics of Pejoratives.Timothy Williamson - 2009 - In Joseph Almog & Paolo Leonardi (eds.), The Philosophy of David Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 137--159.
    Two opposing tendencies in the philosophy of language go by the names of ‘referentialism’ and ‘inferentialism’ respectively. In the crudest version of the contrast, the referentialist account of meaning gives centre stage to the referential semantics for a language, which is then used to explain the inference rules for the language, perhaps as those which preserve truth on that semantics (since a referential semantics for a language determines the truth-conditions of its sentences). By contrast, the inferentialist account of meaning gives (...)
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  • Slurs.Adam M. Croom - 2011 - Language Sciences 33:343-358.
    Slurs possess interesting linguistic properties and so have recently attracted the attention of linguists and philosophers of language. For instance the racial slur "nigger" is explosively derogatory, enough so that just hearing it mentioned can leave one feeling as if they have been made complicit in a morally atrocious act.. Indeed, the very taboo nature of these words makes discussion of them typically prohibited or frowned upon. Although it is true that the utterance of slurs is illegitimate and derogatory in (...)
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  • Slurring Words.Luvell Anderson & Ernie Lepore - 2013 - Noûs 47 (1):25-48.
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  • Expressivism and the Offensiveness of Slurs.Robin Jeshion - 2013 - Philosophical Perspectives 27 (1):231-259.
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  • The Pragmatics of Slurs.Renée Jorgensen Bolinger - 2017 - Noûs 51 (3):439-462.
    I argue that the offense generation pattern of slurring terms parallels that of impoliteness behaviors, and is best explained by appeal to similar purely pragmatic mechanisms. In choosing to use a slurring term rather than its neutral counterpart, the speaker signals that she endorses the term. Such an endorsement warrants offense, and consequently slurs generate offense whenever a speaker's use demonstrates a contrastive preference for the slurring term. Since this explanation comes at low theoretical cost and imposes few constraints on (...)
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  • Slurs and Stereotypes.Robin Jeshion - 2013 - Analytic Philosophy 54 (3):314-329.
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  • Reply to Lynch, Miščević, and Stojanović.Mark Richard - 2011 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 11 (2):197-208.
    This paper responds to discussions of my book When Truth Gives Out by Michael Lynch, Nenad Miščević, and Isidora Stojanović. Among the topics discussed are: whether relativism is incoherent (because it requires one to think that certain of one’s views are and are not epistemically superior to views one denies); whether and when sentences in which one slurs an individual or group are truth valued; whether relativism about matters of taste gives an account of “faultless disagreement” superior to certain “absolutist” (...)
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  • Slurring Perspectives.Elisabeth Camp - 2013 - Analytic Philosophy 54 (3):330-349.
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  • Languages and Language.David K. Lewis - 1975 - In Keith Gunderson (ed.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 3-35.
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  • The Semantics of Racial Epithets.Christopher Hom - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (8):416-440.
    Racial epithets are derogatory expressions, understood to convey contempt toward their targets. But what do they actually mean, if anything? While the prevailing view is that epithets are to be explained pragmatically, I argue that a careful consideration of the data strongly supports a particular semantic theory. I call this view Combinatorial Externalism. CE holds that epithets express complex properties that are determined by the discriminatory practices and stereotypes of their corresponding racist institutions. Depending on the character of the institution, (...)
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  • Expressive Presuppositions.Philippe Schlenker - manuscript
    Potts (2005, 2007) has argued that expressives such as honky must be analyzed using an entirely new dimension of meaning. We explore a more conservative theory in which expressives are presuppositional expressions [Macià 2002] that are indexical and attitudinal (and sometimes shiftable): they predicate something of the mental state of the agent of the context (and this need not always be the agent of the actual context). Following Stalnaker’s recent work on informative presuppositions (2002), we argue that the presuppositions triggered (...)
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  • Colouring, Multiple Propositions, and Assertoric Content.Eva Picardi - 2006 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 72 (1):49-71.
    The paper argues that colouring is a conventional ingredient of literal meaning characterized by a considerable degree of semantic under-determination and a high degree of context-sensitivity. The positive, though tentative, suggestion made in the paper is that whereas in the case of words such as "but" and "damn" we are dealing with words lacking in specificity, in the case of pejoratives in general, and racist jargon in particular, we are dealing with words that express concepts that purport to describe the (...)
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  • Convention: A Philosophical Study.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Synthese 26 (1):153-157.
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  • Language: A Biological Model.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 2005 - Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    Ruth Millikan is well known for having developed a strikingly original way for philosophers to seek understanding of mind and language, which she sees as biological phenomena. She now draws together a series of groundbreaking essays which set out her approach to language. Guiding the work of most linguists and philosophers of language today is the assumption that language is governed by prescriptive normative rules. Millikan offers a fundamentally different way of viewing the partial regularities that language displays, comparing them (...)
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  • Presumptive Meanings: The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature.Stephen C. Levinson - 2000 - MIT Press.
    When we speak, we mean more than we say. In this book Stephen C. Levinson explains some general processes that underlie presumptions in communication.
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  • Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative.Judith Butler - 1997 - Routledge.
    With the same intellectual courage with which she addressed issues of gender, Judith Butler turns her attention to speech and conduct in contemporary political life, looking at several efforts to target speech as conduct that has become subject to political debate and regulation. Reviewing hate speech regulations, anti-pornography arguments, and recent controversies about gay self-declaration in the military, Judith Butler asks whether and how language acts in each of these cultural sites.
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  • Convention: A Philosophical Study.David K. Lewis - 1971 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 4 (2):137-138.
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  • Frege: Philosophy of Language.Michael Dummett - 1974 - Philosophical Quarterly 24 (97):349-359.
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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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  • On Social Facts.Michael Root - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (3):675.
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  • Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society.Raymond Williams - 1977 - Science and Society 41 (2):221-224.
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  • What Kind of a Mistake is It to Use a Slur?Adam Sennet & David Copp - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (4):1079-1104.
    What accounts for the offensive character of pejoratives and slurs, words like ‘kike’ and ‘nigger’? Is it due to a semantic feature of the words or to a pragmatic feature of their use? Is it due to a violation of a group’s desires to not be called by certain terms? Is it due to a violation of etiquette? According to one kind of view, pejoratives and the non-pejorative terms with which they are related—the ‘neutral counterpart’ terms—have different meanings or senses, (...)
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  • In Defense of a Presuppositional Account of Slurs.Bianca Cepollaro - 2015 - Language Sciences 52:36-45.
    Abstract In the last fifteen years philosophers and linguists have turned their attention to slurs: derogatory expressions that target certain groups on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality and so on. This interest is due to the fact that, on the one hand, slurs possess puzzling linguistic properties; on the other hand, the questions they pose are related to other crucial issues, such as the descriptivism/expressivism divide, the semantics/pragmatics divide and, generally speaking, the theory of meaning. Despite these (...)
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  • The Semantics of Racial Slurs: Using Kaplan’s Framework to Provide a Theory of the Meaning of Derogatory Epithets.Joseph A. Hedger - 2012 - Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 11:74-84.
    In this paper I adopt Kaplan’s framework for distinguishing between descriptive and expressive content. Racial slurs are an especially difficult challenge for truth-conditional semantics because of their projection behaviors. That is to say, the offensive content of slurs “scopes out” of logical operators. I argue that racial slurs express contempt and lack descriptive content, so that many sentences containing slurs are not truth apt. My theory accounts for the intuition of the ordinary speaker who refuses to assent to the truth (...)
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  • Realist-Expressivism: A Neglected Option for Moral Realism.David Copp - 2001 - Social Philosophy and Policy 18 (2):1-43.
    Moral realism and antirealist-expressivism are of course incompatible positions. They disagree fundamentally about the nature of moral states of mind, the existence of moral states of affairs and properties, and the nature and role of moral discourse. The central realist view is that a person who has or expresses a moral thought is thereby in, or thereby expresses, a cognitive state of mind; she has or expresses a belief that represents a moral state of affairs in a way that might (...)
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  • Frege: Philosophy of Language.Michael Dummett - 1974 - Philosophy 49 (190):438-442.
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  • The Heart of Racism.J. L. A. Garcia - 1996 - Journal of Social Philosophy 27 (1):5-46.
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  • The Inconsistency of the Identity Thesis.Christopher Hom & Robert May - 2014 - ProtoSociology 31:113-120.
    In theorizing about racial pejoratives, an initially attractive view is that pejoratives have the same reference as their “neutral counterparts”. Call this the identity thesis. According to this thesis, the terms “kike” and “Jew”, for instance, pick out the same set of people. To be a Jew just is to be a kike, and so to make claims about Jews just is to make claims about kikes. In this way, the two words are synonymous, and so make the same contribution (...)
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  • The Logic of Conventional Implicatures.Chris Potts - 2004 - Linguistics and Philosophy 30 (6):707-749.
    We review Potts' influential book on the semantics of conventional implicature, offering an explication of his technical apparatus and drawing out the proposal's implications, focusing on the class of CIs he calls supplements. While we applaud many facets of this work, we argue that careful considerations of the pragmatics of CIs will be required in order to yield an empirically and explanatorily adequate account.
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  • Pejorative Language.Ralph DiFranco - 2014 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Pejorative Language Some words can hurt. Slurs, insults, and swears can be highly offensive and derogatory. Some theorists hold that the derogatory capacity of a pejorative word or phrase is best explained by the content it expresses. In opposition to content theories, deflationism denies that there is any specifically derogatory content expressed by pejoratives. As … Continue reading Pejorative Language →.
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  • Spreading the Word.Kent Bach & Simon Blackburn - 1987 - Philosophical Review 96 (1):120.
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  • Idioms.Geoffrey Nunberg, Ivan A. Sag & Thomas Wasow - 1994 - In Stephen Everson (ed.), Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 491--538.
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  • Utterer's Meaning, Sentence-Meaning, and Word-Meaning.H. P. Grice - 1968 - Foundations of Language 4 (3):225-242.
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  • Race and Ethnicity in Popular Humour.Dennis Howitt & Kwame Owusu-Bempah - 2005 - In Sharon Lockyer & Michael Pickering (eds.), Beyond a Joke: The Limits of Humour. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 45--62.
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  • Expressive-assertivism.R. Boisvert Daniel - 2008 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (2):169-203.
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  • Slurs and Appropriation: An Echoic Account.Bianchi Claudia - 2014 - Journal of Pragmatics 66:35–44.
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  • Morality and Thick Concepts.Allan Gibbard & Simon Blackburn - 1992 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes( 66:267-299.
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  • Bad Words Remarks on Mark Richard “Epithets and Attitudes”.Robert May - unknown
    “Choose your words wisely,” my mother used to say, “because you never know who’s listening.” Oddly, this is something about which my dear mother and Mark Richard apparently would agree. They both seem to think that the words you use say something about who you are, and if you use bad words, then you are a bad person. About this, I have no doubt that they are right - those who use slurs, at least in the context of many assertive (...)
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  • The Logic of Conventional Implicatures.Christopher Potts - 2005 - Oxford University Press UK.
    This book revives the study of conventional implicatures in natural language semantics. H. Paul Grice first defined the concept. Since then his definition has seen much use and many redefinitions, but it has never enjoyed a stable place in linguistic theory. Christopher Potts returns to the original and uses it as a key into two presently under-studied areas of natural language: supplements and expressives. The account of both depends on a theory in which sentence meanings can be multidimensional. The theory (...)
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  • Morality and Thick Concepts.Allan Gibbard & Simon Blackburn - 1992 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 66 (1):267 - 299.
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  • On Testing for Conversational Implicature.Jerrold M. Sadock - 1978 - In Cole Peter (ed.), Syntax and Semantics: Pragmatics. Academic Press. pp. 281–297.
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  • Spreading the world.Simon Blackburn - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 176 (3):385-387.
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  • White (Pp. 457-468).R. Dyer - 1999 - In Jessica Evans & Stuart Hall (eds.), Visual Culture: The Reader. Sage Publications in Association with the Open University.
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  • 106. Conventional Implicature and Expressive Content.Christopher Potts - unknown
    This article presents evidence that individual words and phrases can contribute multiple independent pieces of meaning simultaneously. Such multidimensionality is a unifying theme of the literature on conventional implicatures and expressives. I use phenomena from discourse, semantic composition, and morphosyntax to detect and explore various dimensions of meaning. I also argue that, while the meanings involved are semantically independent, they interact pragmatically to reduce underspecification and fuel pragmatic enrichment. In this article, the central case studies are appositives like Falk, the (...)
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