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Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 17, Issue 2, 2017

On Pejoratives

Nenad Miščević
Pages 131-143

Precis of the Theoretical Part of A Word Which Bears a Sword

Pejoratives are negative terms for alleged social kinds: ethnic, gender, racial, and other. They manage to refer the way kind-terms do, relatively independently of false elements contained in their senses. This proposal, presented in the book, is called the Negative Hybrid Social Kind Term theory, or NHSKT theory, for short. The theory treats the content of pejoratives as unitary, in analogy with unitary thick concepts: both neutral-cum-negative properties (vices) ascribed and negative prescriptions voiced are part of the semantics preferably with some truth-conditional impact, and even the expression of attitudes is part of the semantic potential, although not necessarily the truth conditional one. Pejoratives are thus directly analogue to laudatives, and in matters of reference close to non-evaluative, e.g. superstitious social kind terms (names of zodiacal signs, or terms like “magician”). A pejorative sentence typically expresses more than one proposition and pragmatic context selects the relevant one. Some propositions expressed can be non-offensive and true, other, more typical, are offensive and false. Pejoratives are typically face attacking devices, although they might have other relevant uses. The Negative Hybrid Social Kind Term proposal thus fits quite well with leading theories of (im-)politeness, which can offer a fine account of their typical pragmatics.

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