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Balkan Journal of Philosophy

Volume 4, Issue 1, 2012


Nenad Miscevic
Pages 45-60

Offensive Communication: The Case of Pejoratives

Pejoratives carry with themselves as part of their meaning the stereotype containing representations (concepts) of negative qualities ascribed to the target, and the claim that the target is bad because it has these negative qualities. This is the kernel of our conceptual truth conditional proposal that this paper expounds and defends. The paper starts with a brief taxonomy of views, and very briefly mentions the reasons for disagreeing with the majority of them. The paper then argues for our truthconditional conceptual view from ordinary nasty inferences involving pejoratives, and then passes to figurative pejoratives offering a novel argument from the metaphorical nature of them. Decoding metaphorical meaning is a cognitive task. Since cognition has to do with semantic traits, and since the cognitive task is a good indicator of semantic structure, this cognitive complexity indicates interesting semantic properties of pejoratives, namely that the negative material involved in the traditional uses of such a pejorative is not merely expressive, but is part of its cognitive, truth-evaluable meaning. Some objections and replies follow. The conclusion briefly discusses the pragmatics of pejoratives pointing to the ubiquitous but little noticed use of pejoratives in the third person, slurring in absentia. This use suggests a novel interpretation of the perlocutory nature of the use of pejoratives.

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