Slur Creation, Bigotry Formation: the Power of Expressivism

Robin Jeshion


Theories of slurs aim to explain how – via semantics, pragmatics, or other mechanisms – speakers who use slurs convey that targets are inferior persons. I present two novel problems. The Slur Creation Problem: How do terms come to be slurs? An expression ‘e’ is introduced into the language. What are the mechanisms by which ‘e’ comes to possess properties distinctive of slurs? The Bigotry Formation Problem: Speakers’ uses of slurs are a prime mechanism of bigotry formation, not solely bigotry perpetuation. With a use of a slur, how are speakers able to introduce new bigoted attitudes and actions toward targets? I argue that expressivism offers powerful resources to solve the problems.


slurs; epithets; pejoratives; semantics; racism

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