Slurs and antipresuppositions

Natural Language Semantics 29 (2):377-400 (2021)


It has been observed that when there is competition between alternative sentences with different presuppositional strength, use of the weaker alternative triggers an inference, sometimes called an antipresupposition, to the effect that the presupposition of the stronger alternative is not satisfied. Furthermore, it has been argued that in order to account for antipresuppositions, it is necessary to postulate an independent pragmatic principle called Maximize Presupposition!, which states that the sentence with the stronger presupposition should be preferred whenever its presupposition is satisfied. In parallel, presuppositional theories of slurs : 458–488, 2016; Schlenker in Theoretical Linguistics 33: 237–245., 2007) maintain that while these expressions encode the same truth-conditional content as their neutral counterparts, they trigger a presupposition that accounts for their derogatory potential. In this article, I argue that presuppositional theories of slurs together with Maximize Presupposition! predict that the use of a neutral counterpart triggers an antipresupposition to the effect that the presupposition of the corresponding slur is not satisfied. As a result, this view incorrectly predicts that it is infelicitous to use the neutral counterpart in contexts where the slur’s presupposition is satisfied, and that felicitous use of the neutral counterpart in a context that is unspecific w.r.t. the pejorative presupposition typically triggers the inference that the presupposition of the corresponding slur is not satisfied.

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Author's Profile

Nicolás Lo Guercio
Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA)

References found in this work

The Social Life of Slurs.Geoffrey Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
Common Ground.Robert Stalnaker - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):701-721.
Pragmatic Presuppositions.Robert Stalnaker - 1974 - In Context and Content. Oxford University Press. pp. 47--62.
Slurring Words.Luvell Anderson & Ernie Lepore - 2013 - Noûs 47 (1):25-48.

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Citations of this work

Peyorativos de Grupo Y Discurso de Odio.Nicolás Lo Guercio - 2021 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 62 (150):747-776.

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