[Lingtyp] Grammatical marking of insults (?)

Sebastian Nordhoff sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de
Tue Dec 14 20:50:44 UTC 2021

Dear Riccardo,
Sinhala has several levels of politeness in imperatives (marked by 
affixes), one of which would be rendered as "Do X, you $#!% !!!". I once 
nearly got beaten up when underestimating the impact that the use of 
this form can have. I can look up the reference if you want to.
Best wishes

On 12/14/21 19:49, Riccardo Giomi wrote:
> Dear all,
> A student of mine would like to investigate the linguistic coding of 
> insults across languages. She is particularly interested in finding out 
> whether languages can have dedicated (uses of) grammatical 
> forms/constructions for this specific purpose. The best example I could 
> come up with so far is the use of the Portuguese third person reflexive 
> possessive adjective (determiner in Brazilian Portuguese) /seu/sua/ with 
> epithets which are meant as insults. An example would be
> /Cala=te, seu burro!/
> shut.up.IMP.2.SG <http://shut.up.IMP.2.SG>=2.SG.OBJ 3.SG.REFL.POSS 
> donkey.M.SG <http://donkey.M.SG>
> 'Shut up, you idiot!'
> (Where, funnily enough, the third person of the adjective/determiner is 
> presumably the polite form!) This is an interesting case, I think, 
> because as far as I can see you never use /seu/sua /in 'plain' 
> vocatives, nor with terms of endearment, nor, for that matter, with NPs 
> which are not used as invocations.
> I am wondering whether anyone is aware of a language which has some 
> grammaticalized form or construction that can be used in this specific 
> way. Note that I am not interested in, say, abusive pronouns or 
> honorifics or general expressions of the speaker's disappointment 
> ('frustrative' markers) but only in grammaticalized means of marking the 
> speech act as an insult.
> Many thanks in advance and best wishes to all,
> Riccardo
> -- 
> Riccardo Giomi, Ph.D.
> University of Liège
> Département de langues modernes : linguistique, littérature et traduction
> Research group /Linguistique contrastive et typologie des langues/
> F.R.S.-FNRS Postdoctoral fellow (CR - FC 43095)
> //
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