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Inflammatory Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 May 2024


This is a paper is about a particular subclass of pejoratives, namely, slurs. These are epithets that denigrate a group on the basis of membership alone, e.g., on the basis of race, ethnicity, origin, religion, gender, or ideology. They carrry a characteristic sting, prone to cause outrage and even injury. As to the source of their characteristic sting, the predominant position invokes some aspect of meaning. Some of the few who reject this assumption locate the source of the sting in the taboo status of pejoratives. Others think slurs can sting because of negative associations they carry across time. We challenge both approaches and defend an alternative, for which negative associations are triggered not by every token of a pejorative, but rather by certain of its articulations.

Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy and the contributors 2024

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