Focus on slurs

Mind and Language 38 (3):693-710 (2023)
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Slurring expressions display puzzling behaviour when embedded, such as under negation and in attitude and speech reports. They frequently appear to retain their characteristic qualities, like offensiveness and propensity to derogate. Yet it is sometimes possible to understand them as lacking these qualities. A theory of slurring expressions should explain this variability. We develop an explanation that deploys the linguistic notion of focus. Our proposal is that a speaker can conversationally implicate metalinguistic claims about the aptness of a focused slurring expression. This explanation of variability relies on independently motivated mechanisms and is compatible with any theory of slurring expressions.

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Author Profiles

Poppy Mankowitz
University of Bristol
Ashley Shaw
University of Leeds