Slurs and Meaning
This essay examines the semantics-pragmatics divide in some recent articles about slurs. The semantic accounts suggesting a hybrid semantic meaning as well as the accounts that wish to include the notion of linguistic competence in semantic meaning are examined and found to have trouble finding a theoretically elegant explanation of the meaning of slurs. The deflationary pragmatic accounts examined are, in contrast, found to not have enough explanatory power to fully account for some of what are generally thought to be slurs’ primary functions in language. Therefore, the essay concludes on the note that perhaps none of these recent accounts examined are to prefer above the other in explaining the meaning of slurs, and that it might be suggested that an account of slurs that utilize pragmatics to describe many of the elements of slurs outlined in semantic accounts may fare better by valuing these pragmatic elements as primary in the interpretation of a slur’s meaning.