March 19th Blog Post

After spending the latter half of fall semester through to January working on constructing my survey, I began distributing it on February 4th. This process proved very interesting seeing as the first people to take it were professors in the English department. Their results were skewed by the first question being, “List all of the curse words or phrases/profanity you know” followed by “List all of the curse words or phrases/profanity you use.” This first test takers felt that it was too long stopped taking the survey. In reaction, we then shifted these questions to the end as more optional questions. Unfortunately, offensiveness also played a role in these subjects not wanting to continue and was a little disheartening. However, the next day when people in some of my classes took it, I saw results shift and people express interest, (even laughing at some points) which was extremely motivating. After posting it on social media and talking in my classes it only took a few days to hit 100 (usable) surveys. Again, this was motivating that people were as interest in observing profanity as I am. There were some great results that highlighted my expectations and proved some of my preconceptions about the subject matter.

As the results were winded down and I began to shift back to my literature review. I began to gather more academic papers to synthesize and I was lucky to find a paper with a plethora of papers to delve into. I have found more papers regarding pragmatic issues such as politeness and speech act theory. These new sources proved to be at the right time considering that now I can apply these theories to the actual data I have gathered. With the combination of my data and my literature review I hope to begin to structure my presentation more and fill in my desired concepts. I have my key concepts and have those working definitions but the presentation is far from finished.

Through this experience, I have learned more about how to structure future surveys, which is a skill that will be dire in grad school. I also have been able to explore my personal interest in the field I wish to study in through this latest literature. I am excited to continue with this project and apply the concepts to my research and further develop my ideas. This has been an exciting few weeks for the research and now I feel motivated to complete and flesh out my idea. Then hopefully, provide some interesting results on the complexities of profanity for my presentation.

Dec 11th Post

    During the time since the last post I have spent the majority of the time constructing my survey. Recently, the survey has been completed and submitted to the IRB for further review. The survey ended up having four sections of questions, which were derived from the preliminary survey. The first section asking for the participant to list the profanity they know, then to list the profanity they use. The second section aims to examine the general comfortability of the taker based on social environments. The third uses the slider function on qualtrics to have the participant gauge how offensive they perceive specific sentences uttered by a speaker. The last section is for demographics, which will include age, gender, race, education and sexual orientation. Hopefully, I will receive word back from the IRB soon in order to begin my data collection.

   In the recent months, I’ve been tweaking my survey to what it is today. As well as, learning more about qualtrics and how to craft a survey. I am proud of funneling my ideas into a comprehensive survey that I feel like will yield a baseline understanding of the participants relationship to swearing. The survey has become less about personal usage and more about the participants perception of swearing itself based on social factors. I think this current survey, will be efficient and able to accrue interesting data. Mostly during the last month I have learned how to better craft and implement a survey to some articles provided by di Gennaro and a closer review of other articles. I believe learning more about how to create a survey, has helped me to streamline my ideas to what they are now. Also, I have continued my literature review, just not to the extent of earlier in the semester, however I am planning to pick it up more in-depth during the winter break. I am also starting an annotated bibliography for Professor di Gennaro and I for the upcoming analysis of the results. Once I have the IRB’s approval I will begin blasting out the link to my students in my major and on my social media accounts. Through this I hope my demographics are more diverse than the limited demographics of what most articles have previously done.

October 16th Post

During this school year Professor di Gennaro and I will be working on our project known as “The Pragmatics of Profanity.” During this study we will be analyzing the intended meaning, motivation and intention in the usage of profanity. The current literature varies in what they call this subject matter but for this post I will be referring to it as curse words, however other names are taboo words, swear words, curse words, profanity, obscene language. I have completed the majority of my literature review and am beginning to work out the kinks of my survey questions. My motivation for this project is that I hope to establish a base for the analysis of the linguistic act of swearing. Where there has been some of literature on the topic, the approach is either highly theoretical or based off of swearing as a whole, without the asking what are these words we are studying and prescribing theory towards. Common four letter words are adapted to theory but the subjects of the survey are never asked to use or state the words they use. Also, the literature sometimes forgets to explore that these words can be invoked for a multitude of reasons and fails to explore of this aspect of these words. I hope this research can display the contextual and flexible nature these words have.

In my literature review the concept of expressivism has been recently linked to the distinction between curse words and slurs. Using a theorist’s distinction between the two I plan to separate my data between the two categories and then focus on what are known as curse words. The theorist’s separation is not my operational definitions but I plan to use them to assist in creating my own. Using my definitions I will be establishing the curse words and analyzing their relationship to power, the context and the way in which they are invoked. I believe the data will render some important information about how we use these words linguistically and pragmatically. I do not know how the data will come out but I am excited to see if our status as a user of a curse word can vary and why that is the case. Another interest of mine is the distancing away from the literal definitions of the words. Hopefully, the data results will provide an opportunity to analyze and access these concepts.

Our current method, is to use a survey to establish what are conceived as curse words according to the subjects. This will be achieved by asking the subjects to state what curse words they know, and another list for what they use. Then access their comfortability with cursing, situational usage, severity and literal usage. Some of the questions will be framed by specific contexts and questions with varying degrees of whether they agree or not. Others situational questions will be fill in the blank. I know it is a lot and is still subject to change, but the basic idea and format has been decided upon.