The pragmeme of insult and some allopracts

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This chapter examines linguistic insults in seeking to identify the contextual parameters that characterize the perception of insult from the points of view of insulter, victim, and onlooker/overhearer in order to identify what characterises a certain kind of behaviour as insulting. Examined are the conditions that apply to the speaker or writer who intends to insult a victim; those that apply to persons who believe themselves to be victims of insult; and the aspects of those conditions that might persuade an onlooker (side participant) to report what is said or written as an insult. I hold that the behavioural act of insulting is determined by the context in which the act occurs. Verbal insult depends in large part on the language used because the insult arises from its perlocutionary effect. An agent’s intention to create this effect – the agent’s perlocutionary intention – is evidence of a malicious intent to wound, and that intention is universally regarded as more reprehensible than unintended insult. To gain perspective on insult I also discuss the nature of banter (comprehending teasing and ritual insult) and how it differs from true insult. Banter is competitive verbal play in circumstances where it is mutually understood that there is no serious attempt to wound or belittle the interlocutor.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPragmemes and Theories of Language Use
EditorsKeith Allan, Istvan Kecskes, Alessandro Capone
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783319434919
ISBN (Print)9783319434902
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


  • Insult
  • Banter
  • Dysphemism
  • Perlocutionary intention
  • Perlocutionary effect
  • Context

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