Qualifying insults, offensive epithets, slurs and expressive expletives
A relevance-theoretic approach
The category of insults comprises disparaging qualifying terms, derogatory epithets, racial/ethnic slurs and participle-like expletives. All of them channel speakers’ (negative) psychological states, so they are considered expressives. Despite the enormous interest that they have aroused, research has not duly addressed whether all types of insults communicate in the same manner, share the same nature and make a similar contribution to communication. This paper ventures some answers from a relevance-theoretic perspective. Relying on the showing-saying continuum and on the conceptual-procedural distinction, it argues that some insults merely show speaker’s meaning, others encode some conceptual load enabling them to communicate by saying and others communicate by an admixture of both. It also contends that some insults encode conceptual content and processing instructions, but others encode instructions alone. Their output, however, is complex, as it may trigger lexical-pragmatic processes adjusting the encoded conceptual load or psychological-state representations.
Keywords: insults, relevance theory, showing-saying, procedural meaning, lexical-pragmatic processes, psychological-state representations
Published online: 04 June 2019
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