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Swear words: we studied speakers of languages from Hindi to Hungarian to find out why they sound the way they do

By Ryan McKay, Professor of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London
Shiri Lev-Ari, Lecturer in Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London
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“Skalk,” I cursed in Kelvak. It’s my favourite language to curse in – there is nothing as satisfying as the harsh consonants and default imperatives of the primary Kelvaki language.

This quote is by the main character in sci-fi novel The Widening Gyre by Michael R. Johnston. Writers like Johnston who invent alien profanity rely on their intuitions about what sounds offensive here on Earth.

We wanted to explore whether there are universal…The Conversation


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