Slurring Words, Slurring ArticulationsErnie LePore (Rutgers University - New Brunswick)
Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road
Words and Worlds
New Directions in the Philosophy of Language
The 2022/23 Royal Institute of Philosophy London Lecture Series
Early in the twentieth century, philosophy in the English-speaking world took what Richard Rorty later called “The Linguistic Turn” in which language became the central focus of philosophy. In the twenty-first century, the philosophy of language remains strong but has changed considerably. This series examines these new directions, including new questions and methods as well as interest in what other disciplines and world philosophies have to teach us. The speakers are all leading or up-and-coming thinkers representing the full diversity of philosophy in the English-speaking world today. Their talks are aimed as much at the interested generalist as philosophical specialists. All are welcome.
Ernie Lepore (Rutgers) (Paper co-authored with Una Stojnic)
Slurring words, slurring articulations
Slurs are epithets that denigrate a group simply on the basis of membership, for example, on the basis of race, ethnicity, origin, religion, gender or ideology. They provide powerful linguistic weapons, carrying a characteristic offensive sting, prone to cause offence, outrage, and even injury. So much so, that they can be subject to media censorship, and sometimes even legislation. As to the nature and source of their characteristic offence, the predominant position is to invoke some aspect of meaning. The few who reject this assumption locate the source of offence in the taboo status of pejorative language. In other words, slurs themselves and/or their associations are the source of their offensive sting, not their meanings. We will challenge both sorts of approaches and defend a novel alternative according to which the source of an offensive effect is negative associations triggered not by slurs but rather by certain articulations of these expressions—phonological or orthographic. We need to distinguish slurs from their articulations because, surprisingly, the latter can trigger an offensive effect even when the former is absent, and even when articulated, a slur can lose its offensive potency if its articulation is non-canonical.
October 13, 2022, 6:00pm BST