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Van Huyssteen 2021a

Van Huyssteen, Gerhard B. 2021. “Swearing in South Africa: Multidisciplinary research on language taboos.” International Conference of the Digital Humanities Association of Southern Africa 2021, South Africa, 29 November to 3 December.

English: Afrikaans, censorship, computational linguistics, cursing, language change, taboo

Afrikaans: Afrikaans, rekenaarlinguistiek, sensuur, taalverandering, taboe, vloek

English: Research on swearing (used here as a hypernym to include other phenomena and/or synonyms like cursing, profanity, taboo language, etc.) has been prevalent for many years internationally, also from a variety of scientific disciplines. Most of the research literature, however, is on swearing in English, although studies have also been conducted on some other languages. By contrast, very little to no research has been done on swearing within the South African context, which is quite surprising, given that using certain swearwords (i.e., racial slurs) is punishable by law. To address this void, we established a multidisciplinary project with its primary roots in the digital humanities, and with inputs from and implications to (amongst others) linguistics, literary studies, communication studies, neurology, psychology, sociology, computer sciences, and law. This project (and specifically the topic of swearing) holds the potential to provide insights in human cognition and social interaction, while situating it broadly within the scope of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The project commenced in July 2019, and is currently ongoing. In this paper, we firstly provide a rationale for the project, before introducing each of the five subprojects. These subprojects pertain to swearing and the law; a swearing constructicon (a kind of online dictionary) for Afrikaans; swearing in the entertainment world and in the media; swearing as a linguistic innovation; and an end-user facing project website. We also report on some of the outputs from the project that are already available, and others that are still being developed and investigated. We conclude with a brief overview of some of the potential impacts of the project.


Afrikaans: Navorsing oor vloekwoorde (hier gebruik as ‘n hiperoniem om ander verskynsels en/of sinonieme soos vloek,skel, taboetaal, ensovoorts in te sluit) kom al baie jare internasionaal voor, ook vanuit ‘n verskeidenheid wetenskaplike dissiplines. Die grootste deel van die navorsingsliteratuur handel egter oor vloek in Engels, hoewel studies ook oor ander tale gedoen is. Daarteenoor is daar baie min tot geen navorsing gedoen oor vloek in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, wat nogal verbasend is, aangesien die gebruik van sekere vloekwoorde (soos raspejoratiewe) volgens die wet strafbaar is. Om hierdie leemte te vul, het ons ‘n multidissiplinêre projek van stapel gestuur. Die projek se primêre wortels is in die digitale humanoria, met insette van en implikasies vir (onder andere) taalkunde, letterkunde, kommunikasiestudies, neurologie, sielkunde, sosiologie, rekenaarwetenskappe en regte. Hierdie projek (en spesifiek die onderwerp van vloek) het die potensiaal om insigte te gee oor menslike kognisie en sosiale interaksie, terwyl dit breedweg binne die omvang van die Vierde Industriële Revolusie geplaas word. Die projek het in Julie 2019 begin en is tans aan die gang. In hierdie artikel gee ons eerstens ‘n rasionaal vir die projek, voordat ons elkeen van die vyf subprojekte bekendstel. Hierdie subprojekte het betrekking op vloek en die wet; ‘n vloekkonstruktikon (‘n soort aanlyn woordeboek) vir Afrikaans; vloek in die vermaaklikheidswêreld en in die media; vloek as taalkundige innovasie; en ‘n projekwebwerf wat op eindgebruikers gerig is. Ons doen ook verslag oor sommige van die uitsette van die projek wat reeds beskikbaar is en ander wat nog ontwikkel en ondersoek word. Ons sluit af met ‘n kort oorsig van die moontlike impak van die projek.

In: English

On: Afrikaans