The semantic structure of Pejoratives

Nenad Mišćević


Pejoratives find their place in the context of linguistic violence and offensive speech, and a theory of pejoratives thus should be connected to the (im-)politeness research. Here, they are put on the map of generic expressions, and characterized as negative evaluative generic terms. The parallel between pejoratives and laudatory expressions is noted. Pejoratives have a rich semantics: causal-descriptive securing of reference, and several layers of non-descriptive meaning, mainly negative-evaluative and prescriptive (the expressive meaning might be part of pragmatics). They are hybrid negative social kind terms. Therefore, a pejorative generic sentence normally expresses several propositions, some of them true, some false, each to be selected by relevant context. Pejoratives stand at the intersection of three areas of research: generics, semantics of pejoratives (and of laudatory expressions) and the (im-)politeness theory in social pragmatics, and the three need to be brought together.