HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 22 no. 2 (2021)

THE DIRECT REFERENCE THEORY OF PEJORATIVES IN HATE SPEECH

Kanit (Mitinunwong) Sirichan

 

Abstract:

The use of language in hate speech is understandably offensive. Though words do not kill, they convey an alarming message that can harm the victim. To understand how words can harm, it is necessary to understand the nature of the meaning of pejoratives or slurs that are used in hate speech. Pejoratives are undeniably offensive. However, they are puzzling as they can be used in two directions, namely, the offensive power preservation and the offensive power destruction. This paper proposes that the direct reference theory of pejoratives can solve the puzzle. A characterization of pejoratives is that it has the property of immediacy. They refer directly to the object of speech. Grounding on a shared context, any descriptions are unnecessary for understanding the offensive message of pejoratives. In this sense, pejoratives have indexical content as it is context-sensitive. The kind of indexical content that pertains to pejoratives is action-oriented. However, its object of reference is empty. In discussing pejoratives that are used in hate speech, some examples of Thai slurs are shown.