Swearing in informal spoken English:1990s – 2010s


This paper investigates changes in swearing usage in informal speech using large-scale corpus data, comparing the occurrence and social distribution of swear words in two corpora of informal spoken British English: the demographically-sampled part of the Spoken British National Corpus 1994 (BNC1994) and the Spoken British National Corpus 2014 (BNC2014); the compilation of the latter has facilitated large-scale, diachronic analyses of authentic spoken data on a scale which has, until now, not been possible. A form and frequency analysis of a set of 16 ‘pure’ swear word lemma forms is presented. The findings reveal that swearing occurrence is significantly lower in the Spoken BNC2014 but still within a comparable range to previous studies. Furthermore, FUCK is found to overtake BLOODY as the most popular swear word lemma. Finally, the social distribution of swearing across gender and age groups generally supports the findings of previous research: males still swear more than females, and swearing still peaks in the twenties and declines thereafter. However, the distribution of swearing according to socio-economic status is found to be more complex than expected in the 2010s and requires further investigation. This paper also reflects on some of the methodological challenges associated with making comparisons between the two corpora.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2020-0051
Divisions: ?? 53981500Jl ??
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Centre for Language Research at Aston (CLaRA)
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Centre for Health and Society
Additional Information: © 2021 Robbie Love, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Uncontrolled Keywords: bad language,corpus linguistics,language change,spoken English,spoken corpora,swearing,taboo language,Language and Linguistics,Communication,Philosophy,Linguistics and Language
Publication ISSN: 1860-7349
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2024 07:22
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2021 08:16
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
https://www.deg ... -2020-0051/html (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-10-01
Published Online Date: 2021-08-16
Accepted Date: 2021-07-19
Authors: Love, Robbie (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-7212-1165)



Version: Accepted Version

Access Restriction: Restricted to Repository staff only


Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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