Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Applied Linguistics (M.A.)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Dr. Dan Brown

Second Advisor

Dr. Colleen Brice

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathryn Remlinger

Academic Year



Second language learners often lack knowledge of L2 swear words, their appropriateness, and pragmatic function. Competence in L2 swearing is important for L2 learners to be able to express themselves expertly and understand others’ emotional expressions precisely. However, taboo language is rarely included explicitly in L2 curricula due to its controversial nature. This paper addresses a gap in the literature concerning what second language users actually know about swearing in their L2. Some studies have attempted to determine learners’ receptive swearing competence (Jay & Janschewitz, 2008; Kapoor, 2016); however, the present study employs an updated measure of L2 pragmatic swearing competence to investigate the relationship between learners’ receptive knowledge in swearing competence and interest in improving this competence. Baseline data from native English speaking participant judgments was used to verify ratings by L2 English learners of the likelihood of swear words to be used in certain contexts in which social distance between interlocutors, tone of the swearing utterance, and the swear word itself have been specified. The L2 English learners also completed a survey indicating their interest in learning about swear words. It was hypothesized that there would be a significant gap between learners’ swearing competence and their desire to learn how to swear, offering support that swearing competence has an overlooked value in English L2 classrooms. It was found that there is a weak relationship (r = -0.19, p = 0.139) between performance in pragmatic swearing competence and perceived interest in developing swearing knowledge. Implications toward the potential value of teaching L2 swearing competence will be of interest to ESL/EFL teachers and curriculum designers.