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Asian slurs and stereotypes in the USA

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Abstract

Slurs such as chink and gook 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 useĀ – 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.

Keywords: appropriation; derogatory force; ethnic groups; pragmatics; slurs; stereotypes

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2018

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