Publication details

Euphemisms and non-proximal manipulation of discourse space : The case of blue-on-blue

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Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Lingua
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords pragmatics; proximization; distanciation; euphemism; political discourse; war rhetoric; taboo; manipulation
Description This article provides a pragmatic interpretation of the effects of euphemistic lexical choices made in public discourse in reference to taboo topics. It contributes to the cognitive pragmatic theory of proximization by considering how euphemisms weaken the potentially negative effect of specific linguistic representations or -- more broadly -- conceptualizations of forbidden reality, on the recipients. Doing so, such expressions extend the discourse space between the unpleasant phenomenon and the recipients’ deictic centre. Focusing on the military euphemism blue-on-blue and its use in various media, the paper interprets this expression as a strategy of discursive distanciation from the unwelcome consequences of military action. The data indicate that distanciation involves several levels of grammatical and structural transformations that obliterate the potentially negative impact by veiling the congruent, i.e. the most direct, verbalization of the event with an increasingly complex series of semantically opaque realizations.
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