Article published in:The Pragmatics of Ritual
Edited by Dániel Z. Kádár and Juliane House
[Pragmatics 30:1] 2020
► pp. 15–39
The socialisation of interactional rituals
A case study of ritual cursing as a form of teasing in Romani
The present paper examines the ways in which ritual cursing operates as a form of teasing in (Gabor) Roma communities. By ‘ritual cursing’ we mean forms of curse that are believed to cause harm to the cursed person or people related to them, i.e. cursing studied here differs from swearing and ‘cussing’, as it embodies supernatural beliefs to a degree. While cursing is an archetype of ritual, to date little pragmatic research has been done on this phenomenon, supposedly due to the scarcity of interactional data collected in cultures where cursing is actively practised; thus, the present paper fills a knowledge gap in the field. We examine cursing in interactions where it is used as teasing in order to socialise young children. Since ritual is a means through which social structures are re-created (Durkheim 1912 [1954/2001]), aiding young language users to acquire rituals is a key aspect of community life. However, little research has been done on the ways in which ritual practices are socialised in communities at the level of interaction, which validates our focus on teasing curses. The phenomenon studied is also relevant to previous sociopragmatic research on teasing: whilst in other (non-ritual) sociocultural settings socialising teasing implies aiding young language users to distinguish between humour and offence, due to the potential harm attributed to ritual cursing its socialisation is centred both on harm and the offence in the conventional sense of the word.
Keywords: cursing, Roma, ritual, socialisation, teasing, harm
Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) 4.0 license.
Published online: 22 November 2019
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