SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

A Presuppositional Account of Misgendering
(Philosophy of Language, )

In this talk I will analyze how gender-related information conveyed by pronouns enters the common ground, explore the phenomenon of misgendering in terms of hate speech and propose a presuppositional account of misgendering as a form of hate speech.

First, I will analyze how utterances with gendered expressions such as pronouns and gender-specific nouns work in conversations, using notions of presupposition and common ground. Pronouns and gender-specific nouns trigger presuppositions about the gender of the referent, for example (1) ``She is magnificent'' presupposes that the person referred to is a woman. Common ground is usually said to consist of beliefs (and assumptions, presumptions) shared by all interlocutors. If the presupposition that the referent of (1) is a woman already was in the common ground the use of pronoun ``she'' does not convey any new information, it is just consistent with the belief already shared by all participants. If there was no previous information concerning the referent's gender in the common ground, the presupposition in question will be accommodated into it. I call this approach the presuppositional account of gender-related information.

The next part of the talk will be devoted to misgendering understood as referring to a person using pronouns and/or gender-specific nouns that do not match the referent's gender identity. Typically, when a speaker intentionally calls a trans woman ``he'' or ``guy'' they do it because of transphobic attitudes and rejection of the gender identity of the referent. In such cases there should be a shared correct belief about the referent's gender in the common ground, but the transphobic interlocutor holds a belief that ``trans women are not real women and one should derogate them because of being trans women'' which they convey by using the incorrect pronoun/gender-specific noun.

Finally, the presuppositional account of misgendering will be compared to the presuppositional account of slurs (e.g. Cepollaro, 2015; Marques & García-Carpintero, 2020) to see whether these forms of hate speech could be integrated into one framework. I propose that a presuppositional approach may be operative for various forms of hate speech since it accounts for some of the similarities between examples of hate speech such as misgendering and slurs.


Cepollaro, B. (2015). In defense of a presuppositional account of slurs. Language Science 52, 36-45.

Marques, T. & García-Carpintero, M. (2020). Really expressive presuppositions and how to block them. Grazer Philosophische Studien97.

Chair: Gabriel Levc
Time: 18:10-18:40, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.007
Remark: (Online Talk)

Zuzanna Jusińska 
(University of Warsaw, Poland)

Zuzanna Jusińska is a PhD student at the University of Warsaw where they work on a philosophical account of grammatical gender. Jusińska's main research interests are: feminist philosophy of language; hate speech; the semantics-pragmatics divide; semantic change. Their last projects include: a pragmatic analysis of utterances containing expressions with grammatical gender in terms of Gricean framework and speech act theory; a presuppositional account of gender-related information in language; an account of slur reclamation understood as semantic change brought about through the systemic occurrences of pragmatic mechanisms.

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