The International Research Center for the Study of Verbal Aggression
P.O. Box 14123
Santa Rosa, California 95402

Dr. Reinhold Aman, Director
Phone (707) 795-8178

Review of Oksana Ye. Holod's "Semantic Peculiarities and Functioning of Pejorative Vocabulary in Modern German." Dissertation, Ivan Franko Lviv National University, Lviv, February 2001. 192 pages. In Ukrainian.

Every day around the world, tens of thousands of people are humiliated, fired, fined, jailed, injured, killed, or driven to suicide because of "maledicta" -- insults, slurs, curses, invectives, name-calling, epithets, threats, blasphemies, vulgarities, obscenities, and other offensive or aggressive language. Maledicta appear in every literary genre, from newspapers to the greatest works of world literature, as well as in the Bible and other sacred writings. They are part of many academic fields, including anthropology, sociology, folklore, psychology, psychiatry, medicine, literature, semantics, onomastics, morphology, philology, and general linguistics.

Yet traditional scholars shun this enormously important field, partly because they do not want to "sully" their reputation of being associated with "dirty" words, and partly to avoid the ridicule by their narrow-minded colleagues and the ignorant public.

As the founder of the transdisciplinary field of "Maledictology" (in German also called "Schimpfwortforschung") and having inspired hundreds of articles, books and dissertations by students and scholars from around the world since 1977, I am very pleased and proud that Oksana Holod had the courage and intelligence to contribute an important and useful research tool to this field. Her pioneering research presented in her dissertation is a major contribution to this area of human communication and interpersonal relations that affects everyone, from the lowest laborer to the loftiest academic, from the little girl ridiculed by her schoolyard bullies to world leaders calling each other names.

Oksana Holod's investigation regarding the definition, classification, semantics, onomastics and functions of "Schimpfwort" (term of abuse, invective, insult, swearword) is of immense value to establish what "Schimpfwörter" are: their types (literal, metaphoric, metonymic, other rhetoric figures, genitive- and dative-metaphors), their absolute or relative status (based on intent and context), their varying degrees of perceived and disputed intensity ("mild" to "very strong"), their direct or indirect application (target present or absent; types of targets), their change from term of abuse to term of endearment and vice versa, the amelioration and pejoration of neutral terms, and more. Her thorough, well-organized, clearly presented, and richly illustrated findings can be applied to similar research in all other languages and show the similarities and differences among languages, as well as have pragmatic applications in legal situations concerning libel, slander, derogation, and other unlawful use of language.

Her highly developed "Sprachgefühl" deserves to be noted: as a non-native speaker of German, Oksana Holod demonstrates a laudable perception and understanding of the fine nuances of German and Austrian terms (both standard and dialect) which goes far beyond that of the average native speaker of German.

Based on Holod's "Autoreferat" and correspondence between the author and me, I am highly impressed by her dissertation showing thorough research, logical analysis, clear organization, a massive corpus of some 32,000 maledicta cited from German and Austrian authors and augmented by questionnaires and interviews with native speakers of German, as well as solid research documented by her massive bibliographical references (307 items), all of which resulted in very useful findings from which future research in this ubiquitous but neglected area of communication will benefit. I am certain that the name "Oksana Holod" will appear in the references of many future research projects and publications dealing with the practical and theoretical aspects of verbal aggression.

I do hope Ms. Holod's dissertation will be translated into English, German or French, to make it accessible to those unfamiliar with the Ukrainian language.

Reviewer's Qualifications
  • Ph.D. in Germanic Linguistics and Medieval Literature (1968, University of Texas)
  • Author or Editor of 18 books, anthologies, and dictionaries on terms of abuse, including a lexicon of Austro-Bavarian terms of abuse
  • Author of numerous articles, chapters, and notes on terms of abuse in various publications
  • Lecturer on linguistic, cross-cultural and psychological aspects of terms of abuse at universities in the USA, Canada, Germany, France, and Peru
  • Founder of "Maledicta: The International Research Center for the Study of Verbal Aggression"
  • Creator of "The International Maledicta Archives" (Special Library)
  • Editor and Publisher of Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression (1977--2005)
  • Consultant on abusive language, slurs, invective, and other forms of verbal aggression and verbal abuse for libraries, research institutes, and courts of law
  • Voluntary Consultant to students working on Master's and Doctoral Degrees in Germany, France, The Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Rumania, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Nigeria, Ghana, Japan, Australia, and other countries.

Dr. Reinhold Aman
21 February 2001