Prof. Diane Blakemore
, University of Salford.
This paper addresses the question of whether epithets used as slurs can be treated alongside expletives such as damn in a general account of expressive meaning. I begin by arguing that neither Hom’s (2008) account of the offensive effects of slurs in terms of asserted content nor Potts’ (2005, 2007) conventional implicature account of expressive meaning can be maintained. I then work within the framework of Sperber & Wilson’s (1986/95) relevance theoretic pragmatics to argue that the use of a slur provides linguistic evidence for the way in which the speaker conceptualizes the target. In contrast, expletives pattern with expressive gestures and interjections in that they encode procedures for the identification of emotions and attitudes (cf Wharton 2009; Blakemore 2011).