[lg policy] call: Swearing and Linguistic Impoliteness in Social Interaction

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 13 15:34:07 UTC 2011

Swearing and Linguistic Impoliteness in Social Interaction

Date: 22-Aug-2012 - 24-Aug-2012
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact Person: Neal Norrick
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site: http://www.sociolinguistics-symposium-2012.de

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Call Deadline: 31-Jan-2012

Meeting Description:

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19
Berlin, 22-24 August 2012
Thematic Session 'Swearing and Linguistic Impoliteness in Social Interaction'

Organizers: Neal R. Norrick, Saarland University and Kristy Beers
Fägersten, Södertörn University College

Both swearing and linguistic impoliteness more generally have
attracted much attention in recent sociolinguistic research. Swearing
is an apparent universal in language communities with wide-ranging
significance for traditional sociolinguistic concerns such as
individual and group identity, variation, power and solidarity,
(im)politeness, second language acquisition, and discourse analysis.
Recent publications reflect a growing trend towards investigating
sociolinguistic aspects of swearing, including the social history of
swearing (McEnery, 2006), variation in swearing (Murphy, 2009; Ljung,
2011), effects of interlocutor variables and context on swearing and
subsequent offensiveness (Beers Fägersten, 2007), and pragmatic issues
facing research on swearing (Stapleton, 2010). These and related
sources reveal context-specific patterns in swear word usage and
specific attitudes toward various types of swearing and swear word
users. Swearing has been shown to fulfill a range of social and
communicative functions, in part because of its taboo (impolite,
blasphemous, dirty etc.) nature, but also because swearing expresses
strong emotions. Due to its sacrilegious, sexual, scatological
implications, swearing serves to signal attitudes, allegiances and
group membership, to break the ice in various social settings, or to
adumbrate potentially transgressive topics. Its association with
emotion links swearing with humor, exclamative constructions, and
certain prosodic features like increased volume and tempo. At the same
time, swearing can vent frustration, justify relating a personal
experience, or express evaluations. Contrary to the view of swearing
as a purely negatively evaluated activity, studies show that it often
provides a powerful means of establishing and modulating relations and
presenting socially approved identities (Baruch and Jenkins, 2006;
Stapleton, 2003). Swear words may function as pragmatic markers
(Norrick, 2009) and formulaic listening practices, particularly useful
during conversational narrative performance (Norrick, 2008). Research
has also shown that the social meanings attributed to swearing are
both context-dependent and linked to expectations about social
categories like age, gender, socioeconomic class and ethnicity (e.g.
Bayard and Krishnayya, 2001; Beers Fägersten, forthcoming; Jay and
Janschewitz, 2008; McEnery and Xiao, 2004). Like slang and technical
jargon, swearing establishes group membership while excluding
outsiders; unlike slang and jargon, swearing is generally understood
and negatively evaluated by outsiders without really excluding them.
Speakers who deploy linguistic units recognized and sanctioned by some
or all of their audience must receive some substantial payoff in
'covert prestige', personal satisfaction at a certain kind of identity
display, or at least emotional release.

Call for Papers:

A very well attended panel on swearing as a social and linguistic
activity at SS 18 in Southampton in 2010 brought together nine
scholars from the US and Europe, focusing primarily on English and
variation (mainly by speaker age, gender, and native language). It
identified specific areas where more research is needed such as:

- Swearing in non-native English-language communication
- Code-switching and the use of English-language swearing within
another language
- Swearing as a means of constructing cultural and social identity
- The cultural acquisition of swearing
- Swearing as a marker of solidarity/distance and inclusion/exclusion
- Swearing in specific social contexts
- The relation between swearing and other varieties of linguistic impropriety

We propose to build on this successful panel, seeking to address these
research desiderata, but extending the purview to other languages as
well as to swearing in second language contexts. The invited scholars
represent native English, Italian, and Japanese, as well as bilingual
language combinations. Their individual approaches relate swearing and
impoliteness to metaphor in political debate; wordplay, conversational
risk and verbal humor; forms and functions of swearing in
conversational storytelling; swearing and code-switching in bilingual
contexts; and corpus study of variation in swearing.

Please send a draft abstract to Neal:


I'd like to coordinate the abstracts beforehand, but you'll have to
submit yourself via the conference website:


Panel Title: Swearing and Linguistic Impoliteness in Social
Interaction (Session ID: 102)
You'll need to cite the session ID: 102 in your submission.


Baruch, Y. & Jenkins, S. 2006. Swearing at work and permissive
leadership culture: When anti-social becomes social and incivility is
acceptable. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28,

Bayard, D. & Krishnayya, S. 2001. Gender, expletive use, and context:
Male and female expletive use in structured and unstructured
conversation among New Zealand university students. Women and
Language, 24, 1-15.

Beers Fägersten, K. 2007. A sociolinguistic analysis of swearword
offensiveness.Saarland Working Papers in Linguistics (SWPL) 1, 14-37.

Beers Fägersten, K. (forthcoming). Who's swearing now? Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Jay, T. & Janschewitz, K. 2008. The pragmatics of swearing. Journal of
Politeness Research 4, 267-288.

Ljung, M. 2011. Swearing: A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Study.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

McEnery, T. 2006. Swearing in English: Bad language, purity and power
from 1586 to the present. London: Routledge.

Murphy, B. 2009. 'She's a fucking ticket': The pragmatics of FUCK in
Irish English - an age and gender perspective. Corpora, vol. 4,

Norrick, N. R. 2008. Using large corpora of conversation to
investigate narrative: The case of interjections in conversational
storytelling performance. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics
13, 438-464.

Norrick, N. R. 2009. Interjections as pragmatic markers. Journal of
Pragmatics 41, 866-891.

Stapleton, K. 2003. Gender and swearing: A community practice. Women
and Language 26(2), 22.

Stapleton, K. 2010. Swearing. In M. Locher and S.L. Graham (Eds.), The
Handbook of Pragmatics, Vol. 9 (Interpersonal Pragmatics), pp.
289-306. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


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