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Swearing in context: Comparing the perceived strength of British English taboo words when presented with and without context.
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, English.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The study of taboo language spans several fields, from psychology and neuroscience to sociolinguistics, yet many gaps remain in the research. It has been established that swearing is most likely an emotional response, originating from the limbic centre of the brain, and that context has a significant bearing on the strength of a taboo. This study tests how the context of a taboo word affects our perception of its strength. Two separate groups of participants were asked to rate the strength of eight taboo words in British English, taken from existing literature and popular culture, namely: cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, nigger, piss, shit, and tits. One group were given the words in context, with definitions and sample sentences, whilst the other group were given the words alone, without context. The results show that both groups rank the words in a roughly similar order but that the words from the Context Group yield more similar scores and are generally perceived as stronger. Though the results do not offer any conclusive findings, the study has opened up several possibilities of future study which could offer some more useful insight into the topic.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keyword [en]
Sociolinguistics, taboo, swearing, context, co-text, British English, perceived strength, polysemy.
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-16833OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-16833DiVA: diva2:787424
Available from: 2015-02-10 Created: 2015-02-10

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CiteExportLink to record
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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf