The meaning and use of slurs
This paper focusses on some aspects of the meaning and use of slurs that have been neglected in the literature so far. On the pragmatic side, it concentrates on non-pejorative uses and the distinction between target groups and in-groups. It shows that emotions play a critical role in all contexts of use, irrespective of whether these contexts are derogatory or not. On the semantic side, the paper adopts a multiple component approach and brings empirical evidence that slur terms do not only have a referential and pejorative component but also a component of degree of offensiveness. There are many sources informing a speech community about a term’s offensiveness, including racist institutions, stereotypes, prohibitions, perlocutionary effects, and meta-linguistic discussions. All of these fluctuating influencing factors add to the complex picture of slur terms and make their semantic components subject to enormous changes.