Sunday, October 10, 2010

Final thoughts on swearing

Although my original hypothesis was not fully supported by my research, I did establish a connection among taboo word use, age, and emotion.


The use of taboo words is linked to social and personal development. As children mature into adolescence they become increasingly concerned with social context; indeed, language use becomes significant in negotiating social relationships around age eleven. Jørgensen stated in regard to his research on code switching in middle school age students that young people perceive their language as something that enables them to have fun in social settings and that language use can in fact “be a power tool in conflicts or as a face-saving measure” . Taboo word use can lead to both fun and social acceptance, two very important considerations for young people.

Adjusting to the emotional changes of moving from childhood to adulthood is another important consideration for young people. As established in Section III, taboo word use is significantly correlated to speaker emotion. It follows then, that the decrease in taboo word use can be linked to the establishment of a wider array of personal tools for dealing with emotion. As an individual becomes more capable of expressing their emotion through productive outlets, such as conversation, their need for taboo word use declines. This analysis would explain the increase in emotionally based narrative content in both older males and females.

My findings are a reflection of the assertion that language serves a unique, highly complex purpose. If one believes that “…language exists as a tool for communication, and rules—old or new—are “good” or “bad” only insofar as they make it an effective or ineffective tool” concerns over taboo word use might be something to reconsider as these words clearly serve a irreplaceable communicative purpose.

Work Cited


George, Alexander. 1990. “Whose Language is it Anyway? Some Notes on Idiolects.” The Philosophical Quarterly 40:160: 275-298.


Jay, Timothy. 2009. Perspectives on Psychological Science 4:2:153-161.


Jørgensen, Norman J. 2003. “Gender differences in the development of language choice patterns in the Køge Project.” International Journal of Bilingualism 7:4:353-377.

Lucken, Melissa. 2009. “Chick’s and Dudes—What’s Your Story?” Survey Data.
Lucken, Melissa. 2009. “Chick’s and Dudes—What’s Your Story?” Personal Interviews.


Schmidt, Stanley. 2002. “To Describe or Prescribe.” Analog Science Fiction & Fact 122:11:4-7.

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