ABSTRACT. In “The Semantics of Racial Slurs,” an article recently published in Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations, Hedger (2012) draws upon Kaplan’s (1999) distinction between descriptive and expressive content to argue that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content. Here I review the key considerations presented by Hedger (2012) in support of his purely expressive account of slurs and provide clear reasons for why it must ultimately be rejected. After reviewing the key cases Hedger (2012) offers for consideration in support of his view that slurs are expressions with purely expressive content, this article provides a critical evaluation of these cases, pointing out at least 13 ways in which his purely expressive analysis of slurs fails. In considering the 13 ways in which the purely expressive analysis of slurs remains inadequate, this article concludes with the suggestion that an adequate account of slurs will ultimately involve not only an expressive aspect but a descriptive aspect also. pp. 11–32

Keywords: slurs; epithets; philosophy of language; semantics; pragmatics; expressivism

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University of Pennsylvania


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