Microaggression or misunderstanding? Implicatures, inferences and accountability

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This paper contributes a pragmatic perspective to the complex question of how to classify microaggressions that are committed via linguistic means. Given that microaggressions are often communicated implicitly, two key questions arise: (i) on what linguistic grounds is a recipient licensed to infer that a microaggression has been committed, and (ii) to what extent can a speaker claim they have been misunderstood and hence deny responsibility for having committed a microaggression? These questions are addressed through a discussion of the nature of implicature, inferences and accountability, highlighting that a key challenge lies in the fact that microaggressive content is typically not part of the representational content of what is achieved in interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-43
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Early online date18 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Accountability
  • Background assumption
  • Deniability
  • Microaggression
  • Misunderstanding
  • Speaker intention

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