Racist Language, Speaker Responsibility and Hearer Authority

  • Palle LethEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11939)


Actual interpretive practice, whether colloquial or formal, is underdetermined with respect to whether qualifications of utterances as racist are based on the speaker’s attitude, communicative intention or the meaning of the utterance and whether in the latter case the racist meaning can be implicit or must be explicit. The focus on the speaker’s expression of evaluation and attitude in current theorizing about slurs involves a similar underdetermination. A common problem is that the speaker’s responsibility is referred to the speaker’s own authority. The interactional model of utterance interpretation which forms the theoretical background of the present paper permits us to elaborate a novel and robust conception of speaker responsibility which situates it within the hearer’s authority. The speaker’s responsibility depends on the hearer’s most reasonable interpretation of the utterance in such a way that the speaker’s actual attitude and intention are irrelevant and also whether the meaning was explicitly or only implicitly conveyed.


Racism Slurs Utterance meaning Communicative intentions Contextualism Semantics Pragmatics Accountability 



I would like to thank three anonymous referees for valuable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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