Volume 9, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1878-9714
  • E-ISSN: 1878-9722
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Slurs such as and are linguistic expressions that are primarily used to derogate certain group members for their descriptive attributes (such as their ethnicity) and are often considered the most offensive of expressions. Recent work on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs has illuminated several important facts regarding their meaning and use – including that slurs are commonly understood to felicitously apply towards some targets yet not others, that slurs are among the most potentially offensive expressions afforded by natural language, and that slurs are often flexibly employed and of potential use, not only derogatorily to convey offense towards out-group members, but also non-derogatorily to convey affiliation with in-group members or to diminish the derogatory force that the slur is typically understood to carry. Nonetheless, prior scholarship has unfortunately restricted itself primarily to considerations of slurs that typically target members of other groups. Since no account of slurs for Asian-Americans has so far been proposed, the aim of this article is therefore to provide the first systematic and empirically informed analysis of slurs for Asian-Americans that accounts for both their derogatory and appropriative (non-derogatory) use.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abad-Santos, Alexander
    2013 ‘Olympus has fallen’ brings out the anti-Asian slurs from its audience. Wire, 1April.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Anderson, Elijah
    1999Code of the Street. New York: Norton.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Anderson, Luvell and Ernie Lepore
    2013 Slurring words. Nous47, 25–48. 10.1111/j.1468‑0068.2010.00820.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0068.2010.00820.x [Google Scholar]
  4. Asian-American Journalists Association
    Asian-American Journalists Association 2012Asian-American Journalists Association Handbook to Covering Asian-America. San Francisco: Asian-American Journalists Association.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Bartlett, Jamie, Jeremy Reffin, Noelle Rumball, and Sarah Williamson
    2014 Anti-social media. Demos1–51.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. BBC
    BBC 2011 Eight US troops charged over death of Pte Danny Chen. BBC News, 21December.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Beaton, Mary, and Hannah Washington
    2014 Slurs and the indexical field: The pejoration and reclamation of favelado ‘slum-dweller’. Language Sciences.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Bianchi, Claudia
    2014 Slurs and appropriation. Journal of Pragmatics66, 35–44. 10.1016/j.pragma.2014.02.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2014.02.009 [Google Scholar]
  9. Bicchieri, Cristina, and Ryan Muldoon
    2014 Social norms. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring Edition.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Breitbart London
    Breitbart London 2014 BBC faces £1 million legal claim over Clarkson ‘racist’ comment. Breitbart London, 29March.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson
    1978 Universals in language usage. InEsther Goody (ed.), Questions and Politeness. pp.56–310. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Cass, Connie, and Jennifer Agiesta
    2011 Young people see online slurs as just joking, poll shows. The Huffington Post, 20September.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. CBS
    CBS 2013 N.J. woman files $1 million lawsuit claiming CVS worker used Asian slur on receipt. CBS New York, 18April.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Chow, Kat
    2013 Dueling stereotypes: Bad Asian drivers, good at everything. NPR, 11July.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Chu, Judy
    2012 Military hazing has got to stop. The New York Times, 3August.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Conley, Thomas
    2010Toward a Rhetoric of Insult. Chicago: Chicago University Press. 10.7208/chicago/9780226114798.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226114798.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  17. Cooper, Brittney
    2014 In support of #CancelColbert. Salon, 28March.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Croom, Adam
    2008 Racial epithets: What we say and mean by them. Dialogue51: 34–45.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. 2011 Slurs. Language Sciences33: 343–358. 10.1016/j.langsci.2010.11.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2010.11.005 [Google Scholar]
  20. 2013 How to do things with slurs: Studies in the way of derogatory words. Language and Communication33: 177–204. 10.1016/j.langcom.2013.03.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2013.03.008 [Google Scholar]
  21. Croom, Adam
    2014 The semantics of slurs: A refutation of pure expressivism. Language Sciences41: 227–242. 10.1016/j.langsci.2013.07.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2013.07.003 [Google Scholar]
  22. 2015 Slurs, stereotypes, and in-equality: A critical review of “How Epithets and Stereotypes are Racially Unequal”. Language Sciences52: 134–154. 10.1016/j.langsci.2014.03.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2014.03.001 [Google Scholar]
  23. 2014c Spanish slurs and stereotypes for Mexican-Americans in the USA: A context-sensitive account of derogation and appropriation. Sociocultural Pragmatics2: 1–35.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Culpeper, Jonathan
    1996 Towards an anatomy of impoliteness. Journal of Pragmatics25: 349–367. 10.1016/0378‑2166(95)00014‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(95)00014-3 [Google Scholar]
  25. Cummings, Bruce
    2010The Korean War. New York: Random House.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Cupkovic, Gordana
    2014 Diachronic variations of slurs and levels of derogation: On some regional, ethnic and racial slurs in Croatian. Language Sciences.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Davis, Carlton
    2011 Chinky, the Chinaman. Psychology Today, 30June.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Donahue, Bill
    2013 Trademark board won’t register ‘Slants’ band name. Law 360, 30September.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Espiritu, Yen
    2003Home Bound. Berkeley: California University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Fei, Deanna
    2012 ESPN’s ‘chink’ headline is no laughing matter. New York Daily News, 23February.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Filmer, Denise
    2012 The ‘gook’ goes ‘gay’. InTRAlinea14: 1829.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Fitten, Ronald
    1993 Fighting words. The Seattle Times, 19March.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Fodor, Jerry, Merrill Garrett, Edward Walker, and Cornelia Parkes
    1980 Against definitions. Cognition8: 263–367. 10.1016/0010‑0277(80)90008‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(80)90008-6 [Google Scholar]
  34. Galinsky, Adam, Cynthia Wang, Jennifer Whitson, Eric Anicich, Kurt Hugenberg, and Galen Bodenhausen
    2013 The reappropriation of stigmatizing labels: The reciprocal relationship between power and self-labeling. Psychological Science24: 2020–2029. 10.1177/0956797613482943
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613482943 [Google Scholar]
  35. Garrett, Paul, and Patricia Baquedano-Lopez
    2002 Language socialization. Annual Review of Anthropology31: 339–361. 10.1146/annurev.anthro.31.040402.085352
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.31.040402.085352 [Google Scholar]
  36. Goffman, Erving
    1967Interaction Ritual. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Guerriero, Alfonso
    2013 Locker-room culture, offensive behavior in sports and the Italian-American experience. L’Italo-Americano, 2December.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Guillermo, Emil
    2011 My slant on the slants and other Asian-American “N” words. Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 4April.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Hajela, D.
    2012 Asian-Americans in military face routine racial slurs, bullying. Anchorage Daily News, 19February.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Hay, Ryan
    2011 Hybrid expressivism and the analogy between pejoratives and moral language. European Journal of Philosophy21: 450–474.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Hedger, Joseph
    2013 Meaning and racial slurs. Language and Communication33: 205–213. 10.1016/j.langcom.2013.04.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2013.04.004 [Google Scholar]
  42. Hibbard, Laura
    2012 ‘Lady chinky eyes’. The Huffington Post, 7January.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Hom, Christopher
    2010 Pejoratives. Philosophy Compass5: 164–185. 10.1111/j.1747‑9991.2009.00274.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2009.00274.x [Google Scholar]
  44. 2008 The semantics of racial epithets. Journal of Philosophy105: 416–440. 10.5840/jphil2008105834
    https://doi.org/10.5840/jphil2008105834 [Google Scholar]
  45. Hoover, Eric
    2007 Fighting words. The Chronicle of Higher Education.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Hsu, Huan
    2012 No more chinks in the armor. Slate, 21February.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Jackson, Jennifer
    2014 Structural differentiation and the poetics of violence shaping Barack Obama’s presidency: A study in personhood, literacy, and the improvisation of African-American publics. Language Sciences.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Jeshion, Robin
    2013 Slurs and stereotypes. Analytic Philosophy54: 314–329. 10.1111/phib.12021
    https://doi.org/10.1111/phib.12021 [Google Scholar]
  49. Johnson, Akilah
    2009 Educators find that teens use ethnic slurs affectionately. Sun Sentinel, 4July.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Kelley, Lane
    1992 Man accused in beating death made racial slur, detective says. Sun Sentinel, 7October.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
    Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights 2009Confronting the New Faces of Hate. San Francisco: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Education Fund.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Lee, Lorin
    2012 Singing Sinophone. Austin: University of Texas Ph.D. Thesis.
  53. Mainman, Bruce
    2012 When did ‘chink’ become a racial slur?Examiner, 19February.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Malaspina, Ann
    2008The Ethnic and Group Identity. New York: Infobase.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Martin, Bradley
    2006Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. McCready, Eric
    2010 Varieties of conventional implicature. Semantics and Pragmatics3: 8. 10.3765/sp.3.8
    https://doi.org/10.3765/sp.3.8 [Google Scholar]
  57. McIlwain, Charlton
    2014 Beware the power of racial slurs to dehumanize. South China Morning Post, 12March.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Mills, Sara
    2009 Impoliteness in a cultural context. Journal of Pragmatics41: 1047–1060. 10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.014
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.10.014 [Google Scholar]
  59. Morewitz, Stephen
    2008Death Threats and Violence. Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/978‑0‑387‑76663‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-76663-8 [Google Scholar]
  60. Murray, Rheana
    2012 Jeremy Lin slur. New York Daily News, 20February.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Murse, Tom
    2013 Cops probe assault, slurs against F&M Asian students. Lancaster Online, 11September.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Ochs, Elinor, and Bambi Schieffelin
    1984 Language acquisition and socialization. InRichard Shweder and Robert LeVine (eds.), Culture Theory. pp.276–320. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. O’Dea, Conor, Stuart Miller, Emma Andres, Madelyn Ray, Derrick Till, and Donald Saucier
    2014 Out of bounds: Factors affecting the perceived offensiveness of racial slurs. Language Sciences.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Park, Somi
    2012 Anti-Asian slurs turn up in Queens. Voices of New York, 18September.
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Pfister, Jonas
    2010 Is there a need for a maxim of politeness?Journal of Pragmatics42: 1266–1282. 10.1016/j.pragma.2009.09.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.09.001 [Google Scholar]
  66. Philadelphia Bar Association
    Philadelphia Bar Association 2014Resolution Opposing Use of Racial Slurs in Business Names. Philadelphia Bar Association.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Pinker, Steven, and Alan Prince
    1996 The nature of human concepts/evidence from an unusual source. Communication and Cognition29: 307–362.
    [Google Scholar]
  68. Potts, Christopher, Ash Asudeh, Seth Cable, Yurie Hara, Eric McCready, Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Rajesh Bhatt, Christopher Davis, Angelika Kratzer, Tom Roeper, and Martin Walkow
    2009 Expressives and identity conditions. Linguistic Inquiry40: 356–366. 10.1162/ling.2009.40.2.356
    https://doi.org/10.1162/ling.2009.40.2.356 [Google Scholar]
  69. Reisigl, Martin, and Ruth Wodak
    2001 The discourse-historical analysis of the rhetoric of racism and antisemitism. InMartin Reisigl and Ruth Wodak (eds.), Discourse and Discrimination. pp.31–90. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Reyes-Ortiz, Krissy
    2011 Gran Torino actor reveals behind-the-scenes racism. The Bottom Line, 25January.
    [Google Scholar]
  71. Richard, Mark
    2008When Truth Gives Out. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239955.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239955.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  72. Richburg, Keith
    2008 Asian groups fight to change eatery’s name. The Washington Post, 15April.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Roberts, Dmae
    2014 Retiring phrases. The Asian Reporter24: 6–7.
    [Google Scholar]
  74. Rosch, Eleanor, and Carolyn Mervis
    1975 Family resemblances. Cognitive Psychology7: 573–605. 10.1016/0010‑0285(75)90024‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0285(75)90024-9 [Google Scholar]
  75. Ruble, Racheal, and Yan B. Zhang
    2013 Stereotypes of Chinese international students held by Americans. International Journal of Intercultural Relations37: 202–211. 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.12.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.12.004 [Google Scholar]
  76. Sally, David
    2003 Risky speech. Journal of Pragmatics35: 1223–1245. 10.1016/S0378‑2166(02)00170‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00170-4 [Google Scholar]
  77. Salon
    Salon 2010 Verboten vernacular or things you should never say. Salon, 25August.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. Saucier, Donald, Derrick Till, Stuart Miller, Conor O’Dea, and Emma Andres
    2014 Slurs against masculinity: Masculine honor beliefs and men’s reactions to slurs. Language Sciences.
    [Google Scholar]
  79. Shattuck, Ryan
    2009 Them’s fightin’ words. Edge, 30September.
    [Google Scholar]
  80. Stapleton, Bruce
    2001Redskins. Lincoln: Writers Club.
    [Google Scholar]
  81. Sweetland, Julie
    2002 Unexpected but authentic use of an ethnically-marked dialect. Journal of Sociolinguistics6: 514–536. 10.1111/1467‑9481.00199
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00199 [Google Scholar]
  82. Tan, Sid
    2012 Sid Tan: Charlie Quan was a Canadian hero, not a “chink”. Straight, 10March.
    [Google Scholar]
  83. Teetor, Paul
    2013 Clippers controversy. LA Weekly, 26November.
    [Google Scholar]
  84. Thompson, Nicole
    2013 John Leguizamo & Kanye West use re-appropriation to change perceptions. Latin Post, 11November.
    [Google Scholar]
  85. Thompson, Krissah
    2014 Va. native Helen Wan on the ‘bamboo ceiling’. The Washington Post, 13February.
    [Google Scholar]
  86. Wang, Grace
    2012 The ABCs of Chinese pop. The Journal of Transnational American Studies4: 1–19.
    [Google Scholar]
  87. Way, Niobe, Maria Hernandez, Leoandra Rogers, and Diane Hughes
    2013 “I’m not going to become no rapper”. Journal of Adolescent Research28: 407–430. 10.1177/0743558413480836
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558413480836 [Google Scholar]
  88. Williams, Jasmin
    2012 Harlem teen fired for Asian slur. Voices of New York, 17January.
    [Google Scholar]
  89. Wittgenstein, Ludwig
    1953Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  90. Yang, Jeff
    2012 ‘Red Dawn’ spurs anti-Asian tweets. The Wall Street Journal. 26November.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): appropriation; derogatory force; ethnic groups; pragmatics; slurs; stereotypes
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error