Pejorative

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A pejorative (also called a derogatory term, [1] a slur, a term of disparagement) is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, showing a lack of respect for someone or something. [2] It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.

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Name slurs can also involve an insulting or disparaging innuendo, [3] rather than being a direct pejorative. In some cases, a person's name can be redefined with an unpleasant or insulting meaning, or be applied to a group of people considered by anyone to be inferior or lower in social class, as a group label with a disparaging meaning.

Definition and etymology

The word pejorative is derived from a Late Latin past participle stem of peiorare, meaning "to make worse", from peior "worse". [4]

Melioration

When a term begins as pejorative and eventually is adopted in a non-pejorative sense, this is called "melioration" in historical linguistics. It may also be called amelioration, reclaiming, [5] or semantic change.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Circular definition

A circular definition is one that uses the term(s) being defined as a part of the definition or assumes a prior understanding of the term being defined. There are several kinds of circular definition, and several ways of characterising the term: pragmatic, lexicographic and linguistic.

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Redskin is a slang term for Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in Canada. The term "redskin" underwent pejoration through the 19th to early 20th centuries and in contemporary dictionaries of American English it is labeled "usually offensive", "disparaging", "insulting", or "taboo".

A referent is a person or thing to which a name – a linguistic expression or other symbol – refers. For example, in the sentence Mary saw me, the referent of the word Mary is the particular person called Mary who is being spoken of, while the referent of the word me is the person uttering the sentence.

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A sexual slur is a term of disparagement used to refer to members of a given gender, sex, or sexual orientation in a derogatory or pejorative manner. The motivation for using a sexual slur is often sexism and/or bias against a sexual orientation or practice.

Reappropriation Valuing a formerly pejorative term in esteem

Linguistic reappropriation,reclamation or resignification is the cultural process by which a group reclaims words or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group. It is a specific form of a semantic change. Linguistic reclamation can have wider implications in the fields of discourse and has been described in terms of personal or sociopolitical empowerment.

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Some historical Chinese characters for non-Chinese peoples were graphically pejorative ethnic slurs, where the racial insult derived not from the Chinese word but from the character used to write it. For instance, written Chinese first transcribed the name Yáo "the Yao people " with the character for yáo 猺 "jackal", but 20th-century language reforms replaced this graphic pejorative with yáo 瑤 "precious jade".

References

  1. "Definition of derogatory". Merriam Webster . Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  2. "Pejorative | Define Pejorative at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  3. "Slur - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  4. "Pejorative (adj.)". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  5. Brontsema, Robin (2004-06-01). "A Queer Revolution: Reconceptualizing the Debate Over Linguistic Reclamation". Colorado Research in Linguistics. 17 (1). doi:10.25810/dky3-zq57. ISSN   1937-7029. Linguistic reclamation, also known as linguistic resignification or reappropriation, refers to the appropriation of a pejorative epithet by its target(s).

Further reading