Acceptability of New Swearwords by Young Netizens in China

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)Abstractpeer-review

View graph of relations


  • Yihan Guan
  • Gloria Yan Dou
  • Bin Li


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


Title16th International Pragmatics Conference
LocationThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University
CityHong Kong
Period9 - 14 June 2019


With the prevalence of new media in recent decades in China, mass-scaled informal and spontaneous social interactions have enabled the spread and use of swearwords. Some swearwords have gained new meanings to the extent of being grammaticalized. Some have re-emerged in disguised forms for instant messaging or to bypass censorship. These new swearwords seem to have gained increasing popularity among the young web users, who extend these variants in more contexts than online interaction. Despite the fast and significant changes in language use and behaviours, there is very limited research on how the swearwords gained the new forms and functions, and on how social factors may contribute to such changes and use in contexts.
In the current study, we first identified 30 new swearwords and variants from prevalent social media platforms in China. Then, we invited Mandarin-speaking netizens to rate the acceptability of all items on a 5-point Likert Scale through an online questionnaire. 216 valid responses were collected. Our preliminary analysis revealed that social factors such as gender, age, education level and area of residence correlated to various extents with participants’ judgement and preferences of swearwords. Moreover, different social groups seemed to vary in terms of tolerance or favourism over old and new swearwords. Our findings may contribute to the pragmatic study of swearing in the following aspects. Swearing is a linguistic and social phenomenon. Its interpretation is thus, speaker and context sensitive, and socially indexed. In the digital era, studying new forms and functions of swearwords can shed lights on combinatory effects of social variables on language use and language change.

Bibliographic Note

Research Unit(s) information for this publication is provided by the author(s) concerned.

Citation Format(s)

Acceptability of New Swearwords by Young Netizens in China. / Guan, Yihan; Dou, Gloria Yan; Li, Bin.

2019. 746 Abstract from 16th International Pragmatics Conference, Hong Kong, China.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)Abstractpeer-review