Circulation of hate speech through implicit meanings

30 May 2024
Room C1

Circulation of hate speech through implicit meanings

In this talk, I will analyse hate speech meaning from the perspective of cognitive pragmatics (Guillén-Nieto 2023: 153–187) by addressing the role of implicit hate speech as a strategy aimed at shaping ideologies and reinforcing political polarisation and the contrast between in- and out-groups.

Implicit hate speech is hate-fuelled language that manipulates the standards for acceptable and unacceptable language, promoting negative sentiments towards certain groups or communities (Gagliardone, Patel, Pohjoinen 2014; Baider 2020). From a linguistic perspective, the implicitness is constituted by all those strategies that aim at concealing either the content or the responsibility for an utterance (Lombardi Vallauri 2019; Becker and Troschke 2023). Implicitly conveyed forms of hate speech aid the circulation of derogatory language and extreme narratives in different cultural, temporal, and linguistic contexts. These narratives gain more power in each recontextualization, particularly in today’s instantaneous and ubiquitous communication environment.

Largely employed in populist narratives, this strategy of implicit hate speech is mainly a tool for propaganda that can effectively convey derogatory content. The exploitation of implicitness serves a double purpose: (i) it contributes to the formation or strengthening of xenophobic and/or sexist beliefs by easing the acceptance and the sharing of questionable arguments; (ii) it allows plausible deniability for the authors, that manage to avoid accountability for producing offensive contents.

The analysed corpus consists of social media content and subsequent comments published between February 2020 and February 2021 in which the Italian politicians Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni and other users discuss issues of cultural belonging, national security, and health crisis. The results of the study reinforce the need to conceptualise hate speech as a continuum (Baider 2020) by underlining the role of presuppositions and implicatures in the reiteration and constant reinvention of hateful discourses.


Baider, F. (2020). Pragmatics lost? Overview, synthesis and proposition in defining online hate speech. Pragmatics and Society, 11 (2): 196–218.

Becker, M.J. & Troschke, H. (2023). Decoding implicit hate speech: The example of antisemitism. In Challenges and perspectives of hate speech research, edited by C. Strippel, S. Paasch-Colberg, M. Emmer, & J. Trebbe, 335-352. Digital Communication Research, 12: Berlin.

Gagliardone, I., Patel, A., & M. Pohjoinen (2014). Mapping and Analysing Hate Speech Online. Available at SSRN: or

Guillén-Nieto, V. (2023). Hate Speech: Linguistic Perspective. De Gruyter: Berlin/Boston.

Lombardi Vallauri, E. (2019). La lingua disonesta. Contenuti impliciti e strategie di persuasione. Il Mulino: Bologna.