Slurs and Negation

Francesca Panzeri, Simone Carrus


We present the results of an experimental study that aims at establishing whether the offensive component of slurs exhibits nondisplaceability (Potts 2007). We found that the derogatory content survives in conditionals and questions (supporting a pragmatic approach), and diminishes in indirect reports (in line with presuppositional accounts); surprisingly, the offensiveness of slurs results almost nullified in negated sentences. In a second study, we explore the hypothesis that negated slurs were rated as not offensive because the negation was interpreted as metalinguistic.


slurs; pejoratives; metalinguistic negation; semantics/pragmatics interface

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