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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter investigates the emergence of English-speaking children’s taboo lexicon (taboo words, swear words, insults, and offensive words) between one and twelve years of age. It describes how the lexicon of taboo words children use shift over time to become more adult-like by age twelve. Less is reported regarding the question of what these taboo words mean to the children who say them. Judgments of ‘good’ words versus ‘bad’ words demonstrate that young children are more likely to judge mild words as bad than older children and adults. The methodological and ethical problems related to research on children’s use of taboo words are outlined as well as suggestions for conducting meaningful research with children in the future.

Keywords: child development, profanity, taboo words, insults, name-calling, swearing, language acquisition, gender differences, offensive speech

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