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date: 16 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates the issues that arise when second and foreign language (LX) users include swearwords and taboo words in their speech. Knowing how to use these words appropriately requires considerable pragmatic competence. The difficulties that LX users face can arise from gaps in the semantic and conceptual representations of the LX swearwords and taboo words which leave them unsure about their exact meaning, their emotional force, their offensiveness, and their perlocutionary effects. Paradoxically, perfect knowledge of the LX is no guarantee for successful use of swearwords and taboo words because interlocutors might judge that LX users (identifiable though a foreign accent for example) do not have the right to use their swearwords and taboo words because they do not belong to the ‘in-group’. LX users are generally aware that LX swearing is a linguistic minefield that requires extra caution.

Keywords: swearwords, taboo words, foreign language (LX) users, meaning, emotional force, offensiveness, frequency of use, affective processing, language embodiment

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