On the functions of swearing in Persian
The burgeoning literature on studies of swearing suggests that any acceptable definition of swearing involves three features: (a) non-literal meanings, (b) taboo subjects, and (c) emotions. It also suggests that swearwords fall into one of the three classes: aggressive, cathartic, or social. Driven by a rich corpus of swearwords from Persian, this paper argues that swearing in Persian does not necessarily involve these three features, and that a redefinition of swearing is needed. It then borrows ideas from ethics to suggest that any precise definition of swearing will have to involve the distinction between teleological and deontological ethics. It further envisages a continuum for swearing, with teleological ethics at one end and deontological ethics at the other, on which different forms of swearing can be arranged based on the degree to which they lean towards either end.
Published online: 20 December 2016
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