The Ineffable Case of Expressives

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Expressive terms (damn, fuck, bastard) are said to convey speakers’ attitudes and feelings. These can be positive or negative, depending on the context. In this paper, I focus on the property of expressives that I take to be of the most importance: descriptive ineffability. Descriptive ineffability is a property of expressive terms for which no suitable descriptive paraphrase can be found that
captures the full meaning of the expressive. In the face of arguments that attempt to show either that descriptive terms also carry this feature or that expressives (at least in some instances) can be effable, I defend the idea that descriptive ineffability is unique to expressives. I end the paper by considering what descriptive ineffability can teach us about expressive terms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-99
Number of pages23
JournalFilozofia Nauki
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • expressives
  • descriptives
  • descriptive ineffability


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