The Grammatical Versatility Of Taboo Terms

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Studies In Language


Taboo terms in certain English expressions and constructions are intensifiers, which have spread as a unit over time to various syntactic positions (Hoeksema & Napoli 2008). Here we look at the pragmatic coherence that has allowed such semantically disparate terms to be grammaticalized as a unit. We examine language using taboo terms in English with comparisons to Dutch, Italian, and other languages. The terms studied here regard religion, disease, sex, and bodily excretions. They exhibit common characteristics with cross-linguistic variation.