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Semantic Contestations and the Meaning of Politically Significant Terms

Mühlebach, Deborah. (2019) Semantic Contestations and the Meaning of Politically Significant Terms. Inquiry - An interdisciplinary journal of philosophy. pp. 1-30.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/73121/

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Abstract

Political disagreement and verbal derogation are both separately and jointly ubiquitous in our everyday lives. In contrast to philosophical discussions of slurring terms, not so much attention has been paid to otherwise politically significant terms, at least as far as semantics are concerned. This paper aims to account for the social complexity with regard to the meaning of politically significant terms. By the example of the race term ‘black,’ I shall show that different discursive practices among different communities sometimes have to be understood as semantic contestations. I develop a model of discursive sub-communities which explains the connections between political contestation, verbal derogation, and semantics in the case of ‘black’. Moreover, my discussion of politically significant terms has important consequences for a broad range of politically significant linguistic phenomena such as so-called politically correct language, the reclamation of slurring terms by the target group, or slurring terms more generally. This paper not only accounts for the political aspects of a linguistic phenomenon, but equally highlights and explains the oft-neglected but crucial role that language plays in social and political struggles. It thus contributes to ongoing discussions both in philosophy of language and in social and political philosophy.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Künste, Medien, Philosophie > Fachbereich Philosophie
UniBasel Contributors:Mühlebach, Deborah
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0020-174X
e-ISSN:1502-3923
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:05 Feb 2020 12:39
Deposited On:05 Feb 2020 12:39

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