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 Tahmineh Tayebi, IFL, Aston
“Why don’t you die, you filthy whore?!”: The pragmatics of causing and taking offence on the Net

This presentation reflects on the notion of taking/causing offence, what it captures, how complicated it is and how it can be rigorously studied. As a case study, I will be looking at the aggressive language directed towards the official Facebook account of an Iranian actress, after she posted a nude photograph of herself, a photograph which allegedly resulted in her being banished from the country. I will argue that the offence found in the comments seems to have been a ‘response’ to what these users take to be an offensive social action on the part of the actress in question. The discussion of offence found in online comments opens a window into the pervasive and ubiquitous issue of online abuse and trolling as it will allow us to (i) investigate why users think they are ‘entitled’ to engage in such offensive language, and (ii) understand where such entitlements to ‘take offence’, and consequently ‘cause offence’, originate from.


Centre for Forensic Linguistics, Aston University, Birmingham, UK, 2018