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Taboo, or Not Taboo: Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Chinese Word「幹」Gan ’Fuck’ in Taiwanese Teenagers’ Community

Zi-Yu Tai
English Department, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan
Abstract—From a sociolinguistic point of view, the Chinese word 「幹」 gan ’fuck’, used frequently in Taiwanese teenagers’ discourse community, had undergone great changes. However, there was relatively little literature focusing on teenagers’ obscene language since it was despised as a taboo topic to be explored in Chinese culture. Therefore, the study aimed to conduct a sociolinguistic analysis of the Chinese word 「幹」 gan ’fuck’. Two-year field observations, in-depth interviews, interactive qualitative inquiries, and documents were employed to collect data. Multiple-method strategy was employed to corroborate these data, which was further analyzed by the researcher using triangulation. The findings revealed that in addition to the traditional opprobrious meaning, 「幹」 gan ’fuck’ received a more neutral and even positive interpretation. It was used to express positive personal feelings, start and smooth a conversation, illustrate the intimidate relationship between interlocutors, seek peer recognition, and establish solidarity. Even if this word was used to reproach someone, here “someone” often referred to the speaker him/herself, rather than the traditional referent “addressee”. These novice meanings and functions of 「幹」 gan ’fuck’ were unique to the teenagers’ discourse community. Factors contributing to these changes were: (1) release of pressure; (2) peer recognition; (3) high frequency of input; (4) attempt to challenge the “taboo” in Chinese society; (5) inadequate communicative competence; (6) inadequate rhetoric proficiency. It was suggested that the adults should provide teenagers with more appropriate language input, instead of despising or punishing their opprobrious verbal expression.

Index Terms—social-cultural, discourse community, taboo,「幹」 gan ’fuck’

Cite: Zi-Yu Tai, "Taboo, or Not Taboo: Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Chinese Word「幹」Gan ’Fuck’ in Taiwanese Teenagers’ Community," Journal of Media & Mass Communication, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 30-36, June, 2015. doi: 10.12720/jmmc.1.1.30-36
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