De små bander - en undersøgelse af børns brug af bandeord

Kirstine Lindberg Sørensen & Stine Lindberg

Studenteropgave: Speciale


English Summary This thesis is written at Roskilde University (RUC) and integrates my two subjects Psychology and Danish. It investigates children’s use of swearwords – a linguistic and psychological phenomenon that has been largely ignored in psycholinguistics, social and developmental psychology, as well as in scientific circles in general. This gives the impression that the subject is considered too taboo for academics in spite of its significance in everyday language. However, on the basis of a field study in a day-care centre in Copenhagen, I seek to understand how children use swearwords and how a study of this can tell us something about the ways in which children learn language. Chapter one in the thesis presents my motivation, the specific focus of investigation, as well as my specific research questions. They are:  What is special about small children’s use of swear words? and  What can their use of swear words tell us about language acquisition? In chapter two, I concentrate on methodological matters such as the qualities of the empirical data, reflections concerning gathering and treatment of data, and my role as a researcher in the context of the day-care centre. Among other things, I reach the conclusion that participant observation and notebook registrations are the best way of gathering data. In chapter three, I present the theoretical frame of the thesis. This has two parts: Firstly, I focus on the term ‘swearwords’ and try to reach a working definition of the phenomenon. In doing this, I discuss how dictionaries reveal much subjectivity of the term and therefore are of little help in understanding what the term includes. I also show how former research on swear words have defined their object of investigation. In addition to this, I examine different aspects of the use of swearing and the pragmatic setting in which it should be understood. Secondly, I focus on children’s language and socialization, and I show how these are closely related in the process of language acquisition. Chapter four represents the analysis. This chapter exists of three parts: Firstly, I present seven categories of functions representing seven kinds of reasons for swearing in accordance to which my empirical data is categorized. This part concludes that the children studied specially use swear words to tease and provoke others (both children and adults), but in particular to experiment with and “taste” the words, simply to get a feeling of how they work and what they do. Secondly, I make a thematic analysis. This shows that the children also use swear words as meta-language where they either talk explicitly about the words, or focus on other children’s breaking of rules concerning swearing. In the thematic analysis I also demonstrate how group identity and humour play a role in children’s swearing. In the final part of this section, four observations from the empirical data illustrate that children do not always seem to understand the link between a swear word’s semantic and pragmatic qualities. Most of the times, the children demonstrate a fine understanding of the pragmatic function, which means they identify the most important part for using the word. Thirdly, the analysis sees swearing as a learning task in a community of practice. Here, I bring in the theory of ‘situated learning’ and ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ and combine it with Language Socialization Theory. With these two theories I conclude that learning how to swear “correctly” is part of socialization and just like learning a language, it can only be discovered by active participation in a social environment. Furthermore, the role of the adults in the socialization and acquisition process is understood through the theory of ‘protected participation’ which builds on the ideas of scaffolding, coaching, informal (vs. formal) learning, and peripheral, legitimate participation. Chapter five contains a conclusion, a quantitative-qualitative perspective on my results, and finally some retrospective thoughts concerning the categorising of functions as a method for analysing.

UddannelserDansk, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) KandidatPsykologi, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato31 aug. 2006
VejledereTomas Ellegaard


  • børn
  • bandeord
  • sprogudvikling
  • pragmatik