What is a slur?

Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1399-1422 (2020)
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Abstract

Although there seems to be an agreement on what slurs are, many authors diverge when it comes to classify some words as such. Hence, many debates would benefit from a technical definition of this term that would allow scholars to clearly distinguish what counts as a slur and what not. Although the paper offers different definitions of the term in order to allow the reader to choose her favorite, I claim that ‘slurs’ is the name given to a grammatical category, and I consequently trace a difference in kind between slurs and other kinds of group pejoratives. I rely on a novel approach to slurs that characterizes them based on their membership to a particular kind of register category, an often neglected sociolinguistic notion determining the social contexts in which registered terms are expected, tolerated or unacceptable. The paper also points out to the close link between words registered as [+derogatory] and their usage in the context of dominance relations of different kinds between users and recipients of slurs. By pointing out to this link I hope to underscore the political significance of slur usage, as well as to contribute further to the explanation why slurs are so damaging and unacceptable in most social contexts.

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Citations of this work

Busting the Ghost of Neutral Counterparts.Jen Foster - 2023 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 10 (42):1187-1242.
Slurs, Pejoratives, and Hate Speech.Mihaela Popa-Wyatt - 2020 - Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy.
Slurring individuals.Víctor Carranza-Pinedo - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
Slurs, Synonymy, and Taboo.Y. Sandy Berkovski - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (2):423-439.

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References found in this work

The Social Life of Slurs.Geoff Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press. pp. 237–295.
When Truth Gives Out.Mark Richard - 2008 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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