Offensive Language: Taboo, Offence and Social Control

Jim O'Driscoll

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Why do people take offence at things that are said? What is it exactly about the offending utterance which causes this negative reaction? How well motivated are these responses?

Offensive Language addresses these questions by applying an array of concepts from linguistic pragmatics and sociolinguistics to a wide range of examples, from TV to Twitter and from Mel Gibson to Donald Trump. Establishing a sharp distinction between potential offence and actual offence, Jim O'Driscoll then examines a series of case studies where offence has been caused, assessing the nature and degree of both the offence and the documented response to it in. Through close linguistic analysis, this book explores the fine line between free speech and criminal activity, searching for a principle way to distinguish the merely embarrassing from the reprehensible and the censurable. In this way, a new approach to offensive language emerges, involving both how we study it and also how it might be handled in public life.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Number of pages216
ISBN (Electronic)9781350169692, 9781350169685
ISBN (Print)9781350169678, 9781350193321
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2020


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