Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2542-3851
  • E-ISSN: 2542-386X
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This paper studies some pragmatic and discursive properties of hate words employed in the comment chains of two Italian right-wing politicians’ social media accounts. The analysis focuses on hate speech directed towards two ethnic groups – African migrants and the Chinese – and an individual, the former minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova. Hate words are divided into two macrocategories: slurs and insulting epithets. Slurs are expressions that are consistently associated with derogatory attitudes against a group of people based on their origin/descent; insulting epithets are either offensive terms that do not attack specific identity traits or neutral words that, in certain contexts, can be offensive. Data indicate that the use of hate words is guided by pragmatic factors and discursive elements, and it changes according to the individual(s) or the groups being attacked. Hate speech on social media occurs mainly through insulting epithets, thus allowing the authors to avoid moderation and any responsibility for their utterance. The results support the idea that hate speech is a complex speech act that aims not only at derogating or expressing negative emotions but works within the framework of racist discourses as a means of creating and reinforcing political polarisation and in-group values.


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