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    Thirty shades of offensiveness: L1 and LX English users’ understanding, perception and self-reported use of negative emotion-laden words

    Dewaele, Jean-Marc (2016) Thirty shades of offensiveness: L1 and LX English users’ understanding, perception and self-reported use of negative emotion-laden words. Journal of Pragmatics 94 , pp. 112-127. ISSN 0378-2166.

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    Abstract

    Previous research on multilinguals’ emotion-laden words has shown that these have more emotional weight in the first language(s) than in languages acquired later in life (Dewaele, 2013). The present study investigates this further with a list of 30 emotion-laden words extracted from the British National Corpus that range in emotional valence from mildly negative to extremely negative. An analysis of data collected via an online questionnaire from 1159 native English (L1) users and 1165 English foreign language (LX) users revealed, surprisingly, that LX users overestimated the offensiveness of most words, with the exception of the most offensive one in the list. It is suggested that when coming across these words in a classroom, learners are warned about them and they attach a red flag to them reminding them of their power. As a result they generally overestimate the power they fail to perceive accurately themselves. LX users were significantly less sure about the exact meaning of most words compared to the L1 users and reported more frequent use of relatively less offensive words while the L1 users reported higher use of more taboo words. Variation among LX users was linked to having (or not) lived in English-speaking environments, to context of acquisition and to self-perceived level of proficiency in English LX.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): multilingualism, emotion, swearwords, offensiveness, English L1, English as a foreign language
    School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > Applied Linguistics and Communication
    Depositing User: Jean-Marc Dewaele
    Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2016 11:46
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2019 07:14
    URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/14482

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