Panel 4. Intersubjectivity behind Euphemism (ENG)

Organizers:Prof. Zhuo Jing-Schmidt (University of Oregon, USA),

Euphemism refers to (1) “That figure of speech which consists in the substitution of a word or expression of comparatively favourable implication or less unpleasant associations, instead of the harsher or more offensive one that would more precisely designate what is intended”, and (2) “An instance of this figure; a less distasteful word or phrase used as a substitute for something harsher or more offensive” (OED, Euphemisms come handy whenever we cannot say what we really mean because what we really mean is verboten, offensive, or simply sounds jarring. Scholarly insights on euphemism converge in the recognition of the deliberate nature of euphemisms (e.g. Allan & Burridge 1991; Brain 1979; Burridge 2012; Hughes 2006; Lutz 2000; inter alias). That is, there is an intent to influence the perception of what is being said by manipulating the words used to express it. In other words, euphemism is a linguistic strategy of regulating behavior and managing social relations. At the heart of this intricate strategy is the human ability to reason about epistemic mental states, namely beliefs, desires, emotions, and intentions. This cognitive capacity, commonly referred to as “theory of mind” or mindreading, is a foundation of human sociality (Penn & Povinelli 2007; Apperly 2011). Theory of mind has been described as intersubjectivity in normative accounts of inference and implicature in philosophy and linguistic pragmatics (e.g., Grice 1957, 1989; Sperber & Wilson 1995). Because the operation of euphemism presupposes intersubjectivity, whether it is intended for politeness, aggression, deception, or charity, euphemism provides a unique angle from which to understand intersubjectivity. This panel of 4-5 presentations aims to bring together scholars interested in intersubjectivity and euphemism to elucidate the intersubjective mechanisms underlying euphemistic language use and how semantic and pragmatic strategies are employed in various languages to accomplish the intersubjective goals intended with euphemistic language. Topics may include truth and Lies, taboo avoidance, social presentation, and other aspects of euphemistic language use in relation to intersubjectivity.