L’offensività degli slurs. Un’indagine sperimentale / The offensiveness of slurs: an experimental investigation

  • Francesca Panzeri
Keywords: slurs, pejoratives, presuppositions, conventional implicatures, semantics/pragmatics interface


A lively debate has developed in recent years regarding the “meaning” of slurs. Content-based theories assume that slurs convey both a descriptive meaning, which makes reference to the target group, and a derogatory component, which conveys hatred against that group. Semantic theories (HOM 2010) and pragmatic approaches that analyse the offensive component as a presupposition (SCHLENKER 2007, CEPOLLARO 2015) or as a conventional implicature (POTTS 2007, WILLIAMSON 2009, McCREADY 2010) differ in the predictions they make about the survival of the offensive component in embedded contexts. We conducted an experimental study that aims at establishing whether the offensive component of slurs exhibits non displace ability (POTTS 2007), comparing the degree of perceived offensiveness of slurs presented in isolation to the offensiveness of a person who utters a sentence in which a slur is negated, hypothesized, questioned or reported. We found that, as stated in the literature, slurs’ offensiveness survives in the context of conditionals and questions; it diminishes in indirect reports; and, surprisingly, it results almost nullified in negated sentences. We interpret these results as indirect evidence in favour of a presuppositional account of slurs.


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How to Cite
Panzeri, F. (2016) “L’offensività degli slurs. Un’indagine sperimentale / The offensiveness of slurs: an experimental investigation”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 00. Available at: http://www.rifl.unical.it/index.php/rifl/article/view/356 (Accessed: 24January2021).