Racial Epithets, Characterizations, and Slurs

Analysis and Metaphysics 12:11-24 (2013)
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Since at least 2008 linguists and philosophers of language have started paying more serious attention to issues concerning the meaning or use of racial epithets and slurs. In an influential article published in The Journal of Philosophy, for instance, Christopher Hom (2008) offered a semantic account of racial epithets called Combinatorial Externalism (CE) that advanced a novel argument for the exclusion of certain epithets from freedom of speech protection under the First Amendment (p. 435). Also in more recent work, “The Expressive Meaning of Racial Epithets: Towards A Non-Unitary Account of Expressive Meaning,” Diane Blakemore (2013) offered an alternative pragmatic account of racial epithets rooted in Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson’s (1986) relevance theory. Adam Croom (2008) has also discussed epithets before in prior work, through a consideration of a paradigmatic racial epithet directed towards Native Americans, but then moved on in subsequent work to focus on developing a more nuanced account of paradigmatic slurring terms instead (Croom 2010; Croom 2011; Croom 2012; Croom 2013; Croom 2014a; Croom 2014b; Croom under review). So the purpose of this article is to return to and extend the previous account of racial epithets provided by Croom (2008) through a consideration of another paradigmatic racial epithet, but this time one directed towards Asian Americans instead of Native Americans. Here I also offer a novel suggestion for how to differentiate between epithets and slurs, offering new insight into how epithets and slurs are both similar and different. A sample list of over 100 other racial epithets that can be accounted for by the kind of analysis presented here is provided in Croom (2008, p. 44-45)



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References found in this work

The Semantics of Racial Epithets.Christopher Hom - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (8):416-440.
Relevance theory.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 2002 - In L. Horn & G. Ward (eds.), The Handbook of Pragmatics. Blackwell. pp. 607-632.
Slurs.Adam M. Croom - 2011 - Language Sciences 33:343-358.
Pejoratives.Christopher Hom - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (2):164-185.

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