Lifestyle Viral and Trending 11 Apr 2016 Swearing is not a si ...

Swearing is not a sign of limited vocabulary

DECCAN CHRONICLE | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Apr 11, 2016, 1:08 am IST
Updated Apr 11, 2016, 1:08 am IST
Those who are exceptionally vulgar might also be exceptionally eloquent and intelligent.
 Those who are exceptionally vulgar might also be exceptionally eloquent and intelligent.

When words fail us, we curse. At least this is what the “poverty of vocabulary” (POV) hypothesis would have us believe. On this account, swearing is the “sign of a weak vocabulary”, a result of a lack of education, laziness or impulsiveness.

In line with this idea, we tend to judge vulgarians quite harshly, rating them as lower on socio-intellectual status, less effective at their jobs and less friendly.
But this view of the crass does not square with recent research in linguistics.

For example, the POV hypothesis would predict that when people struggle to come up with the right words, they are more likely to spew swears left and right. But research shows that people tend to fill the awkward gaps in their language with “ers” and “ums” not “sh*ts” and “godd*mnits.”

This research has led to a competing explanation for swearing: Fluency with taboo words might be a sign of general verbal fluency. Those who are exceptionally vulgar might also be exceptionally eloquent and intelligent. Indeed, taboo words hold a particular purpose in our lexicon that other words cannot as effectively accomplish: To deliver intense, succinct and directed emotional expression. So, those who swear frequently might just be more sophisticated in the linguistic resources they can draw from in order to make their point.

New research by cognitive scientists at Marist College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts attempts to test this possibility, and further debunk the POV hypothesis, by measuring how taboo word fluency relates to general verbal fluency. The POV hypothesis suggests that there should be a negative correlation: The more you swear, the lower your verbal prowess. But the researchers hypothesised just the opposite: The more you swear the more comprehensive your vocabulary would be.

Source: www.scientificamerican.com

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