Northwestern Events Calendar


Philosophy Colloquium Series - Claire Horisk, University of Missouri

When: Friday, February 19, 2021
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Emily Berry   (847) 491-3656

Group: Philosophy Colloquium Series

Category: Academic


Title: Derogatory Jokes and Generalized Conversational Implicatures.

Of all the kinds of demeaning speech—such as slurs and hate speech—humor is one of the last that retains a veneer of social acceptability. Ethnic, racist, and sexist jokes are frequently defended on the grounds that they are “just a joke"; and, indeed, a central thesis of the folk wisdom about humor—that humor differs from serious speech in significant ways—is certainly correct. Many derogatory jokes express no derogatory ideas by semantic means, and they may contain no specific linguistic items, such as racist epithets, that convey contempt. I argue that we should look to pragmatics for an explanation of how derogatory jokes communicate derogatory ideas, even though very general cognitive processes may be involved as well. In this talk, I examine the coherence of the folk wisdom about derogatory jokes, and data that conflicts with the folk wisdom from social psychology. I argue that the totality of evidence could be explained if derogatory joking generates generalized, as opposed to particularized, conversational implicatures. 

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