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A sociolinguistic analysis of swearword offensiveness

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The methodology of the present study, designed for the purpose of collecting quantitative and qualitative data, reflects a sociolinguistic approach to swearing, allowing for an investigation of the relationship between swear word usage and social context. Previous research had established swearing as both a frequently occurring speech behavior within the university speech community and a highly offensive one. The resulting 'swearing paradox' represents the question of how frequency and offensiveness can be directly related. The results of the present study explicate the swearing paradox by providing evidence of a discrepancy between the type of swearing that is most characteristic of social interaction within the university speech community and the type of swearing which is typically presented in offensiveness ratings tasks.
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... Swear words can vary in intensity and strength. For example, prior research has found that "shit" is seen as slightly more offensive than "damn," (Beers-Fägersten, 2007;Ipsos, 2016) though both are used quite frequently by many individuals (Janschewitz, 2008). Men tend to use more strong curses than women (Gauthier & Guille, 2017;Güvendir, 2015). ...
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... A third type of swearing -the most common swearing pattern (Crystal 1995: 173) -is social swearing. In this case, SWs are neither used as an emotional release nor as an insult, but to mark social distance or social solidarity or to shock and/or to assert one's identity in a group to construct personal and group-based identities (Baruch and Jenkins 2007;Beers Fägersten 2007;Coyne et al. 2012;Dutton 2007;Murphy 2011;Stapleton 2003;Stenström 2006;Thelwall 2008) or to enact power roles (Ainsworth 2016;Carroll-Garrison 2012;Johnson 2010;McNally et al. 2005). In all these cases, social SWs are basically used as rhetoric tools to achieve a certain reaction from the hearer. ...
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