Taboo language and reasons for existence
Category: False, Posted on: 10/26/2018 9:19:11 PM















LING 1069-090 Summer 2016


Mubarak Faraj (U0728826)












Taboo language and reasons for existence

Language is considered to be having special types of powers, and is deemed to give cure for sickness, and even keep a person away from evil. With the help of language, a person can attract goodness to oneself, or do harm to other people.  Such belief relating to the power of language is seen to be prevalent in the evolution of humans, since many years. The human society on the Earth defined certain words to be considered as 'immoral ' and 'dangerous' words. Such words are termed as Taboo words( Battistella, 2005; Eggert, 2011).   The taboo words are given such definition and categorized by the different institutions related to power like the media or religion. The term "Taboo" is taken from the Tongan language, which is spoken in archipelago of the Pacific region, which means talking about things which are untouchable/ holy (Gao, 2013).  The  people from the North America, South America and the English since many years, refuses to talk about/ use the language relating to certain things or actions,  and were not ready to use the language related to them.   Wardhaugh (2000 as cited in Gao, 2013) defined taboo to be the avoidance / prohibition of behaviors which are considered as harmful for the people in a society, which would further cause them shame, embarrassment and anxiety.  The Oxford Dictionary (2001 as cited in Gao, 2013) further defines taboo to be a religious custom that restricts or prohibits a specific practice that is related to a thing, place or person.

Children are clearly taught that the taboo words should not be used in their daily communication.  Such conditioning and feedback molds their speech patterns while they become adults. In the opinion of Henslin ( 1999), norms (mores) are strictly enforced in the culture of a person, and due to this Taboos are very deeply ingrained in the mindsets of people. Henslin (1999) mentions that the violation of the rules of society by using taboo words is seen with disdain in the society. It is important to understand why only certain selected words are considered to be bad, immoral or wrong. These words are used from the topics where people are not comfortable to talk with.  Such topics include words relating to the functions of the body like excretion, and sex, death and illness, private body parts, and words considered to come under blasphemy, are categorized to be taboo words. The socio-cultural values related to the words, also categorize the words to be categorized as taboo words, or acceptable words in a society (Eggert, 2011).

Misfortune, even today is considered to be taboo, and people are prohibited with using phrases relating to misfortune. Such words are believed to attract bad luck and considered to be taboo words. Eggert (2011) presents argument that in the 21st century the swearing with sexual words, has slowly come out of the taboo zone. People were further found to discuss the human body, on the television, magazines and movies in the present day. Such relaxation towards use of swearing in language resulted in increase in the research in field related to swearing. Presently numerous researchers and sociologists were into the swearing, and this further resulted in increased research in the reasons for the occurrence of Tourette's syndrome. 

Though swear words are like any other words, the main themes relating to these words and the underlying concepts make them swear words (Eggert, 2011). Another aspect which makes these swear words prevalent is the freedom with which the swear words are used. It is important to understand as to who will choose the swear words. Battistella (2005) opines that swear words are needed in certain aspects like in media, comprising of television  and film for reflecting how people speak and create realism in the context of arts.  Despite the point that irrespective of the increasing relaxed attitude of people towards the phenomenon of swearing currently, it is important to note that swearing is not acceptable always in all places, times, and contexts. Battistella ( 2005) opines that the appropriateness of use of swear words in the talk to be considered as good language, depends on many factors like the audience, the relation between any two speakers, the settings, and the content being discussed. Use of swearing is again a personal choice, and usually is based on the speaker's common sense. Though people may freely use swear words with friends, they should be mindful while they use them with teachers, parents and other elderly people.


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