Navigazione – Mappa del sito
Discrimination in philosophy

Slurs as the Shortcut of Discrimination

Bianca Cepollaro
p. 53-65

Abstract

The last decade saw a growing interest for hate speech and the ways in which language reflects and perpetuates discrimination, with two main focuses of interest: a linguistic-oriented question about how slurs encode evaluation on the one hand, and a philosophical and psychological question about the effects elicited by slurs. In this paper, I show how the two questions are deeply related by illustrating how a certain linguistic analysis of derogatory epithets – the presuppositional one – can shed light on non-linguistic issues, namely what effects the use of slurs produce, especially concerning discrimination. I present a presuppositional account of slurs (Section 2) and I show how such an analysis provides convincing explanations of other non-linguistic phenomena: in particular, I consider the ways in which slurs reflect and spread discrimination by illustrating how they work in conversation (Section 3). In Section 4, I argue that some features of slurs presented in Sections 2 and 3, namely the fact that they always target a category and the fact that the derogatory content that they convey is presented as not open to discussion, make slurs particularly dangerous tools. I conclude by briefly assessing the question as to how one should respond when exposed to the use of slurs.

Torna su

Termini di indicizzazione

Torna su

Testo integrale

1. Introduction

  • 1 In what follows, I will explicitly mention some slurring terms, as the treatment of slurs is severe (...)
  • 2 In this work I will not present or discuss alternative accounts of slurs. I just list the reference (...)

1The last decade saw a growing interest for hate speech and the ways in which language reflects and perpetuates discrimination. In particular, slurring terms1 drove the attention of different communities of scholars: philosophers of language, ethics and metaethics, psychologists, as well as linguists. Different perspectives have been adopted, different accounts were put forward. In this heterogeneous landscape, we can distinguish two main focuses of interest: a linguistic-oriented question about how slurs encode evaluation on the one hand, and a philosophical and psychological question about the effects elicited by slurs. In this paper, I show how the two questions are deeply related by illustrating how a certain linguistic analysis of derogatory epithets – the presuppositional one – can shed light on non-linguistic issues, namely what effects the use of slurs produces, especially concerning discrimination. I present a presuppositional account of slurs2 (Section 2) and I show how such an analysis provides convincing explanations of other non-linguistic phenomena: in particular, I consider the ways in which slurs reflect and spread discrimination by illustrating how they work in conversation (Section 3). In section 4, I argue that some features of slurs presented in section 2 and 3, namely the fact that they always target a category and the fact that the derogatory content that they convey is presented as not open to discussion, make slurs particularly dangerous tools. I conclude by briefly assessing the question as to how one should respond when exposed to the use of slurs.

2. The presuppositional account of slurs

  • 3 For a discussion of what counts as a ‘group’, see Predelli 2013, Cepollaro 2016 and Nunberg forthco (...)

2Slurs are usually defined as derogatory terms that target individuals and groups on the basis of their belonging to a certain category, called “target class”. Slurs typically target people on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion and so on. English examples are terms like “chink”, “dyke”, “faggot”, “kike”, “wop” and so on. For each slur we can usually find a non-loaded corresponding expression, i.e. a neutral counterpart. For the above slurs, they would be, respectively: “Asian”, “lesbian”, “gay”, “Jew”, “Italian”. The target class could be in principle any3, but we observe that epithets tend to target groups that are or used to be discriminated against. Moreover, it is a cross-linguistic phenomenon: while the groups targeted by epithets tend to change from language to language, the mechanism seems to be the same in nature across languages, that is, there are terms that are employed to refer in a pejorative way to a certain group, typically discriminated against.

3The feature of slurs that especially drove the attention of linguists is the so called “scoping out”, i.e. the fact that the derogatory content of slurs tends to survive when the slur is embedded: it projects or scopes out of semantic embeddings. The scoping out of the derogatory content of slurs concerns negation, antecedents of conditionals, modals, questions and so on:

(1) Hans is a boche.

(2) Hans is not a boche.

(3) If Hans is a boche, he must eat sauerkrauts all the time.

(4) Hans might be a boche.

(5) Is Hans a boche?

4The projective behavior of slurs resembles under this respect the behavior of presuppositions. As a matter of fact, one way to account for the derogatory content of pejoratives is to analyze it in terms of presuppositions. In what follows, I shall present such an approach and illustrate its advantages. According to the presuppositional account, slurs and their corresponding counterparts have the same meaning at the level of truth-conditions; but slurs carry in addition a derogatory content targeting a group, which tends to scope out of semantic embedding. For example, (6) has the same truth-conditions as (7), but in addition triggers a presupposition like (8):

(6) Luca is a wop.

(7) Luca is Italian.

(8) Italian people are worthy of contempt because of being Italian.

5This means that for (6) to be uttered felicitously in a context, it must be already common ground that (8) or the participants in the conversation must be willing to add (8) to the common ground without objections. If that is not the case, i.e. if (8) is not common ground and the participants are not inclined to accept it, an utterance of (6) constitutes a case of presupposition failure. In the present work I will have to set aside the issue of failure, that would deserve a paper on itself (for a discussion of this point, see Cepollaro 2016). Let me just point out that “failure” does not mean that the utterance does not make any sense to the audience, just that it is not felicitous nor appropriate (see Yablo 2006). This would mean that it is not appropriate to utter a slur like “wop” in a non-italophobic environment, but the participants to the conversation can nevertheless understand what is being said.

6Note that in the particular version of the presuppositional account that I am sketching (see also Cepollaro 2015 and Cepollaro and Stojanovic 2016) – as opposed to the one formulated in Schlenker 2007 – the presupposed content is about the world and the target class, not about how the speaker feels or thinks about the target class. Schlenker’s proposal is to analyse the presupposition triggered by “wop” as “the agent believes that Italian people are despicable”. This difference might look like a technical detail, but it is not. It changes the kind of requirements imposed by the utterance on the common ground: what the use of a slur presupposes is not that the speaker has discriminatory beliefs about the target class, but that the target has to be discriminated against. I shall address this point at a greater length in section 3, when I discuss the notion of complicity and propagandistic power of slurs.

7Before concluding this section, I would like to underline that slurs – unlike other expressives – always target an individual or a group on the basis of their belonging to a certain category. Scholars working on slurs often talk about “expressives” in general, including slurs and non-slurs. I find this labelling quite misleading. It might be that an insult like “asshole” happens to be even more offensive than the “mild” and old fashion germanophobic slur “boche”. Nevertheless, “jerk” and “boche” display different linguistic behavior with respect to projection and embedding.

8Let us compare (9) and (10):

(9) Hans is a jerk.

(10)Hans is a boche.

9Prima facie, (9) and (10) are just two utterances insulting Hans. Nevertheless, if we embed them under negation, we find a decisive divergence:

(11) Hans is not a jerk.

(12) Hans is not a boche.

  • 4 Of course it could be part of some discriminatory practices to insult targets with general expressi (...)

10The derogatory content of “jerk” is neutralized by negation in (11): there is nothing derogatory in uttering (11); at most, the register invoked by the term “jerk” could be inappropriate in certain contexts, but (11) carries no derogation whatsoever. On the contrary, even if the slur “boche” is negated in (12), it still carries its pejorative content against German people. Under negation, the germanophobic content is not ascribed to Hans, but it survives the embedding. In other words, the presuppositional account draws a clear distinction between slurs and other expressives like “jerk”, “asshole”, etc. They display different linguistic behavior under embedding, as the pejorative content of slurs is more resistant. Slurs appear to be conventional means to perpetrate discrimination, as they attack a person because she belongs to some group, irrespective of who she is and what she does. In this sense, slurs are intrinsically related to discrimination, whereas non-slurring expressions are not4.

3. What the presuppositional account of slurs can teach about the behavior of slurs

11Now that a presuppositional account of slurs is sketched, I would like to point out how such an approach can account for the idea that slurs do not just reflect discriminatory beliefs, but they actually promote discrimination. As we said, according to the presuppositional account, the derogatory content of epithets is a non-truth-conditional component of meaning. This feature might seem just a linguistic technicality, but it is not. The information that utterances presuppose rather than assert has a particular status, as in the former case the content is presented as taken for granted, as not open to discussion. A presupposition is something we take for granted in a conversation, something we take to be already part of the conversation background, or to be very compatible with it. We shall now see how this apparently technical feature of presuppositions is crucial to understand how derogatory epithets work and how effective they are in promoting discrimination. In particular, I will consider what happens when slurs are used in conversation, by focusing on people’s reactions. I will distinguish three scenarios: (a) endorsement, (b) complicity and propaganda and (c) rejection.

12(a) Endorsement

13The first scenario is the racist context, in which the participants to the conversation endorse the derogatory presupposition. Imagine for example that Jane says “Peter’s boss is a chink, isn’t she?” while she talks to her colleagues. Jane is taking for granted that Asian people are bad for being Asian, which is in fact common ground in the context of that conversation. Presupposing such a content is a way to reinforce the shared discriminatory beliefs as well as to reinforce the racist identity of the group. Geoffrey Nunberg points out that to attack targets is not the only function of slurs (and according to Nunberg, it is not even the primary one); slurs are used by slur-users to identify themselves, to create a bond based on discriminating someone else.

It’s misleading to characterize all of the latter [the literal uses of slurs] in terms of their use as “weapons” or for that matter to say that they’re in their nature tools for insulting or offending others. Those are unquestionably among the most troubling effects of the uses of certain slurs […] the focus on the offensiveness of slurs tends to obscure what is usually their primary raison d’être. […] [The] vast majority of the uses of these words occur among the members of the group they belong to, out of earshot of the people they denote. Indeed, a community may have a slur for a group of people that its members have no expectation of ever encountering. (Nunberg forthcoming)

14(b) Complicity and propaganda

15The second scenario is the one in which the derogatory presupposition triggered by the slur is not common ground among the participants. It might sound strange to say that speakers presuppose something that is not common ground, as presuppositions are what we take for granted in conversations. However, presuppositions can also get accommodated: we will rely on what linguists call “informative presupposition” (see, among others, Stalnaker 2002 and Simons 2005). Speakers can presuppose information that is not already part of the common ground, when they expect that the audience will just accept it without objections. Imagine again that Jane says to her colleagues “Peter’s boss is a chink, isn’t she?”, even if she does not know whether everyone agrees that Asian people are despicable for being Asian. If no one says anything, the introduction of derogatory and discriminatory contents transforms and shapes the common ground and it legitimates further uses of slurs as well as corresponding discriminatory practices. The non-challenged racist utterance turns the context into an explicitly racist one. The presuppositional account of slurs provides a reasonable explanation of why slurs are taken to have a propagandistic power: they trigger presuppositions that – if not objected – slip into the common ground and change what the participants to a conversation take everyone else to assume. Here we see the danger of slurs: they do not only reflect the discriminatory practices and beliefs of a certain community, but they also spread them, by imposing such beliefs in contexts where they were not explicitly shared. The propagandistic power of slurs is closely related to the phenomenon of “complicity”: in the absence of objections, speakers are taken to endorse any content that is accommodated in the common ground, no matter what they think or what their intentions are. In other words, when a slur is used literally in a context, if speakers do not object they are responsible for letting the derogatory content in the common ground. Note that the phenomenon of complicity is explained in this very direct way by the presuppositional account only if the pejorative content is analyzed as being about the target class (“Asian people are bad for being Asian”) and not about what the speaker believes about it (“the speaker believes that Asian people are bad for being Asian”). Otherwise, if it was just about what the speaker believes, it is less easy to explain why the participants to the conversation would bear responsibility.

16(c) Rejection

17The third and last scenario I consider is the one where, just like in the second one, the derogatory presupposition is not already part of the common ground, but unlike the second one, the audience is not willing to accommodate the derogatory presupposition. It is the case of rejection. To reject a presupposition it is not sufficient to state “it’s not true”. Take the verb “to stop”, that is a well-known presuppositional trigger. (13) presupposes (14). As a matter of fact, (14) survives semantic embedding in (15) and (16).

(13) Jane stopped smoking.

(14) Jane used to smoke.

(15) Jane didn’t stop smoking.

(16) Did Jane stop smoking?

18Consider now the following exchange:

(13) Jane stopped smoking.

(17) No, she hasn’t.

  • 5 In discourse analysis, scholars distinguish between at-issue and not-at-issue content. The idea is (...)

19The denial in (17) presupposes that Jane used to smoke, even if it denies that now she does not: in general, denial targets the at-issue content, while does not interact with the non-at-issue one5. It follows that for the presuppositional account the derogatory content of slurs cannot be rejected through denial, as presuppositions are not part of the so-called “at-issue” content. Observe:

(18) Peter’s boss is a chink, isn’t she?

(19) No, she isn’t.

(19) is not apt to reject the pejorative content of (18); it only gets to deny the descriptive truth-conditional content, namely that Peter’s boss is Asian (see also Jeshion 2013b: 320). We can imagine for (19) a continuation like (20):

(20) No, she isn’t. She’s a spic.

20In order to reject the presupposed content some other strategy needs to be found. One strategy with presuppositions is to explicitly articulate the presupposition and explicitly reject it, or to deny it metalinguistically.

(13) Jane stopped smoking.

(21) Hey wait a minute, Jane didn’t used to smoke.

(22) I wouldn’t say that she “stopped”: she never smoke in the first place.

21For slurs, we can imagine similar patterns: one can explicitly articulate the derogatory presupposition and reject it or simply refuse the use of the term metalinguistically.

(23) Peter’s boss is a chink, isn’t she?

(24) Peter’s boss is Asian and there is nothing bad in that.

(25) I don’t allow you using racist words in my presence.

22The discussion about the three scenarios and how the derogatory content of slurs slips into the common ground when it is not challenged should have revealed so far why slurs are considered dangerous objects. In general, presuppositions are so effective in entering the common ground because rejection has a cognitive as well as a social cost. The implicit nature of the derogatory content (that is – in less evocative terms – the fact that epithets encode the derogatory content at the level of presuppositions rather than at the level of truth-conditions) makes it hard for speakers to retrieve and reject it, as the best way to reject presupposition is to stop the flow of the conversation, which means to stop being cooperative. So either one accommodates the presupposition or gives up for a moment cooperation. In this sense, slurs, intended as means to produce discrimination, are crucially different from explicit manifesti endorsing and fostering discrimination. If a speaker is confronted with a homophobic manifesto, there can be room for discussion. Take for example this statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: «[Homosexual] tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable»6. As unreasonable as it is, the homophobic content is explicitly articulated and thus it can be rejected. It is something to which one can answer “That is false”. Also statements that imply homophobic beliefs can be relatively easily challenged. Consider these statements7 of Antonin Gregory Scalia, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, known for his homophobic ideology:

(26) “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

(27) “[The Texas anti-sodomy law] undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty. … So do laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and, for that matter, working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery.”

(28) “The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.”

23For how wrong and offensive Scalia’s statements can be, they are something people can disagree with. They can argue that Scalia is wrong by presenting arguments (for example, with respect to (28), one can say that the fact that something was illegal for 200 years tells nothing about the legal status it should have today). On the contrary, when slurs are used, it is much harder to argue, as the derogatory content they trigger is presuppositional and thus taken for granted: it is imposed on the audience.

4. The shortcut of discrimination

24In the previous sections, I presented a presuppositional account of derogatory epithets and I dwelt on the way in which these terms work in conversation. The question about the effects of slurs in conversation brings up the question of the function that slurs fulfil. I shall argue that such function is not just to insult and diminish people, as Jeshion points out: «slurs function to derogate or dehumanize, by which I mean, that they function to signal that their targets are unworthy of equal standing or full respect as persons, that they are inferior as persons» (Jeshion 2013a: 232). As a matter of fact, there might well be other non-slurring expressives that are meant to dehumanize, derogate and label the addressee as inferior (probably expressions like “son of a bitch”, “piece of shit”, “shit-eater” and the like). The function that slurs – as opposed to other expressives – specifically fulfill is to discriminate: to dehumanize the targets and label them as inferior on the basis of characteristics that in no way ground or justify derogation, exclusion etc.

25Talking about the relation between slurs and the discriminatory stereotype they are associated with, the psychologist Leon Rappoport (Rappoport 2005, quoted in Nunberg forthcoming) talks about “shorthands”: «Ethnic slurs serve as a kind of shorthand way of referring to the negative qualities associated with any particular group. They are quite specific. Hispanics might be called “spics” and Jews “kikes”; each term would stand for a specific cluster of traits assumed to be typical of Hispanics and Jews…» (Rappaport 2005: 46). Nunberg revises the notion of shorthand with the related notion of “shortcut”:

Stereotypes, negative and positive, are among the cognitive shortcuts we rely on to make sense of the world and to guide our responses to it. The utterance of a slur very often evokes or foregrounds a negative stereotype of its target, which is one reason why people use these words: “What do you expect from a ____?” Those stereotypes in turn can serve to legitimate various responses to the group, sometimes by dehumanizing or marginalizing its members, and other times merely allowing us to discount them (when we call a publicist a flack it’s by way of questioning her journalistic integrity, not her basic humanity). (Nunberg forthcoming)

26Nunberg’s idea is that stereotypes count as cognitive shortcuts because they allow people to form judgements that do not have to be based on experience and acquaintance, but just on the assumption that belonging to a certain category warrants certain features. If you assume that, for example, being Italian goes together with being a latecomer, talking loud, being obsessed with food and the like, then you are justified in inferring from the fact that someone is Italian that she instantiates most of the above properties; and you are justified for instance in avoiding hiring an Italian person for a job that requires punctuality. Nunberg’s description of what a stereotype is is convincing. Nevertheless, I shall argue that this is not the end of the story when it comes to slurs and the reason has to do with the standard features of presuppositions. According to the analysis I just presented, slurs are presupposition triggers. As we saw, presuppositions are what speakers take for granted in conversation: when speakers presuppose a content, they present it as accepted and uncontroversial. Because of this feature, scholars studying discourse in Court, dedicate special attention to how presuppositions are used to impose a content that was not actually shared (see i.a. Coulthard and Johnson 2010 and Ehrlich and Sidnell 2006): «Presupposition is at least one micro-mechanism in language use which contributes to the building of a consensual reality» (Chilton 2004: 64). My point being that slurs are not just the expression of a stereotype, which would already be, in Nunberg’s terms, a shortcut, but they also impose the stereotype by presenting it as shared, which is an additional shortcut. In this sense, slurs do not just reflect discriminatory beliefs, but they actually promote discrimination without arguing for it, just presenting it as given.

27Wrapping up, presupposing in general is a useful tool to take for granted what everybody accepts already and it is also a means to establish commonality, possibly imposing it. This can concern not just the knowledge speakers share, but also the values they share. If the set of beliefs underlying discrimination was object of discussion, we might have far less discriminatory practices than we do. The reason why slurs are considered dangerous tools is that they impose discriminatory contents without leaving room for disagreement. Partly because of such reasons, both scholars (Hornsby 2001, Anderson and Lepore 2013a) and authorities promoted “silentism” as a policy: in order to fight the discrimination perpetrated by slurs, their use (and according to some, their mention, too) must be prohibited. Such terms need to be removed from circulation until their offensive potential fades away. However, it is not clear how this would happen. Bianchi 2014 proposes an alternative analysis, where she rejects silentism as a policy and she suggests that the process through which slurs can lose their derogatory potential is actually appropriation. “Appropriation” refers to those cases where the members of a group can use among themselves the slur targeting their own group, in such a way that the slur is not offensive anymore in those contexts; on the contrary, appropriated slurs are used to express solidarity and underline intimacy. This is for example what happened to the term “gay”, that used to be derogatory and is neutral nowadays, after a process of appropriation (see Brontsema 2004). According to Bianchi, silentism is not apt to diminish the derogatory potential of slurs, while appropriation is able to subvert it and, in time, even delete it. The analysis of epithets that I just proposed does not take a clear stance with respect to silentism. What it does suggest is that the main source of danger of slurs is their conveying a derogatory content in an implicit way. So a good practice would be to train people to properly respond to slurs when they come across them. Just as in the case of any presupposition, a proper rejection strategy would consist in articulating the presupposition, i.e. making explicit the derogatory content of the slur, and reject it. Some lgbtq rights organizations do promote this kind of training, by teaching people how to react when they come across an utterance of an homophobic slur. This is one of their suggestions, which closely resembles what it would mean to retrieve and reject a presupposition in the case of slurs.

  • 8 http://www.healthiersf.org/LGBTQ/InTheClassroom/docs/Responding%20to%20Homophobia.pdf [link non rag (...)

(29) What you just said was really inappropriate because you are implying that there is something wrong with being gay or lesbian when there isn’t8.

5. Conclusion

28In this paper I have shown that the two questions of how slurs encode evaluation and how slurs produce discrimination are deeply related. In particular, I presented a presuppositional account of derogatory epithets and I argued that such an account is apt to explain (i) how slurs differ from other expressives like “jerk”, “asshole” in that they always target a group on the basis of properties that do not ground or justify discrimination and exclusion; (ii) how slurs differ from explicit discriminatory statements in that the latter can be directly challenged and objected to, whereas slurs present their derogatory content as already accepted by everybody. I concluded by suggesting that according to my account, the best way to respond to hate speech would be to make explicit the derogatory content of epithets and then reject it.

Torna su

Bibliografia

Anderson, L. and Lepore, E.
– 2013a, Slurring words, “Nous”, 47, 1: 25-48.
– 2013b,
What did you call me? Slurs as prohibited words, “Analytic Philosophy”, 54, 1: 350-363.

Bianchi, C.
– 2014,
Slurs and appropriation: An echoic account, “Journal of Pragmatics”, 66: 35-44.

Bolinger, R.J.
– 2015,
The pragmatics of slurs, “Noûs”, 49, 1: 1-24

Brontsema, R.
– 2004,
A queer revolution: reconceptualizing the debate over linguistic reclamation, “Colorado Research in Linguistics”, 17: 1-17.

Cepollaro, B.
– 2015,
In defense of a presuppositional account of slurs, “Language Sciences”, 52: 36-45.
– 2016,
Building evaluation into language, “Phenomenology and Mind”, 11:158-168.

Cepollaro, B. and Stojanovic, I.
– 2016,
Hybrid evaluatives, “Grazer Philosophische Studien”, 93, 3: 458-488.

Chilton, P.
– 2004,
Analysing political discourse: Theory and practice, London - New York, Routledge.

Coulthard, M. and Johnson, A.
– 2010,
The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics, London - New York, Routledge.

Gutzmann, D.
– 2011,
Expressive modifiers and mixed expressives, in O. Bonami and P. Cabredo Hofherr, (eds), Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics, VIII: 123-141.

Ehrlich, S. and Sidnell, J.
– 2006,
‘I think that’s not an assumption you ought to make’: Challenging presuppositions in inquiry testimony, “Language in Society”, 35, 5: 655-676.

Hom, C.
– 2008,
The semantics of racial epithets, “Journal of Philosophy”, 105: 416-440.

Hom, C. and May, R.
– 2013,
Moral and semantic innocence, “Analytic Philosophy”, 54, 3: 293-313.
– 2014,
The inconsistency of the identity thesis, “Protosociology”, 31: 113-120.

Hornsby, J.
– 2001,
Meaning and uselessness: how to think about derogatory words, in P. French, H. Wettstein, (eds), “Midwest Studies in Philosophy”, XXV: 128-141.

Jeshion, R.
– 2013a,
Expressivism and the offensiveness of slurs, “Philosophical Perspectives”, 27, 1: 231-259.
– 2013b,
Slurs and stereotypes, “Analytic Philosophy”, 54, 3: 314-329.

Langton, R.
– 2012,
Beyond belief: Pragmatics in hate speech and pornography, in I. Maitra and M.K. McGowan (eds), What Speech Does, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Lasersohn, P.
– 2007,
Expressives, perspective and presupposition, “Theoretical Linguistics”, 33, 2, 223-230.

McCready, E.
– 2010,
Varieties of conventional implicature, “Semantics and Pragmatics”, 3, 8: 1-57.

Nunberg, G.
– forthcoming,
The social life of slurs, in D. Fogal, D. Harris, and M. Moss (eds), New Work on Speech Acts, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Potts, C.
– 2005,
The Logics of Conventional Implicatures, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Predelli, S.
– 2013,
Meaning Without Truth, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Rappoport, L.
– 2005,
Punchlines: The Case for Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Humor, Westport (CT), Praeger Publishers.

Sauerland, U.
– 2007,
Beyond unpluggability, “Theoretical Linguistics”, 33, 2: 231-236.

Schlenker, P.
– 2007,
Expressive presuppositions, “Theoretical Linguistics”, 33, 2: 237-245.

Simons, M.
– 2005,
Presupposition and relevance, in Z. Szabó, (ed.), Semantics vs. Pragmatics, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 329-355.

Simons, M., Tonhauser, J., Beaver, D. and Roberts, C.
– 2010,
What projects and why, in N. Li and D. Lutz, (eds), Semantics and linguistic theory, (Salt) 20, Ithaca, clc Publications: 309-327.

Stalnaker, R.
– 2002,
Common ground, “Linguistics and Philosophy”, 25: 701-721.

Tenchini, M.P. and Frigerio, A.
– 2016,
A multi-act perspective on slurs, in R. Finkbeiner, J. Meibauer and H. Wiese, Pejoration, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 167-186.

Whiting, D.
– 2013,
It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it: Slurs and conventional implicatures, “Analytic Philosophy”, 54, 3: 364-377.

Yablo, S.
– 2006,
Non-catastrophic presupposition failure, in J. Thomson and A. Byrne, (eds), Content and Modality: Themes from the Philosophy of Robert Stalnaker, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 164-190.

Torna su

Note

1 In what follows, I will explicitly mention some slurring terms, as the treatment of slurs is severely impaired by the introduction of invented slurs or euphemisms. For some authors even the mention of slurs can be upsetting. I hope that the mention of slurs in this paper will not hurt the sensitivity of the reader.

2 In this work I will not present or discuss alternative accounts of slurs. I just list the reference of the most important alternatives. For an analysis of the derogatory content of slurs in terms of truth-conditions, see: Hom 2008 and Hom and May 2013, 2014; in terms of conventional implicatures, see Potts 2007, McCready 2010, Gutzmann 2011, Whiting 2013; in terms of presuppositions, see: Lasersohn 2007, Sauerland 2007, Schlenker 2007, Cepollaro 2015, Cepollaro 2016, Cepollaro and Stojanovic 2016; in terms of rules of use, see Jeshion 2013a, 2013b and Predelli 2013; in terms of speech acts, see: Langton 2012, Frigerio and Tenchini 2016; in terms of purely pragmatic inferences, see Bolinger 2015, Nunberg forthcoming. For a deflationary approach, according to which the derogatory power of slurs does not depend on their meaning, see: Anderson and Lepore 2013a, 2013b.

3 For a discussion of what counts as a ‘group’, see Predelli 2013, Cepollaro 2016 and Nunberg forthcoming.

4 Of course it could be part of some discriminatory practices to insult targets with general expressives like “jerk”, but that is just irrelevant to our point.

5 In discourse analysis, scholars distinguish between at-issue and not-at-issue content. The idea is that utterances typically have a so-called ‘main point’, that is a question under discussion (qud); we distinguish the ‘at-issue’ content – the propositions associated with an utterance that are relevant to the qud as they entail “a partial or complete answer to the qud” (Simons et. al. 2010) –, from the ‘not-at-issue’ content, i.e. any proposition associated with an utterance that is not relevant to the qud. Because presuppositions are what is taken for granted by an utterance, they are typically not relevant to the qud.

6 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19751229_persona-humana_en.html. Persona Humana is a declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released in 1975 regarding sexual ethics.

7 http://www.towleroad.com/2016/02/302540/.

8 http://www.healthiersf.org/LGBTQ/InTheClassroom/docs/Responding%20to%20Homophobia.pdf [link non raggiungibile: 05/07/2017].

Torna su

Per citare questo articolo

Notizia bibliografica

Bianca Cepollaro, « Slurs as the Shortcut of Discrimination », Rivista di estetica, 64 | 2017, 53-65.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Bianca Cepollaro, « Slurs as the Shortcut of Discrimination », Rivista di estetica [Online], 64 | 2017, online dal 01 aprile 2017, consultato il 25 settembre 2017. URL : http://estetica.revues.org/2063 ; DOI : 10.4000/estetica.2063

Torna su

Diritti d'autore

Licenza Creative Commons
Rivista di Estetica è distribuita con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale.

Torna su
  • Logo Rosenberg & Sellier
  • Revues.org