A sample of speech acts in everyday discourse referring to persons or events having to do with the term mental retardation was analyzed in order to investigate the belief that language use both constructs and reflects cultural norms that define the social roles of persons reduced to object status through categorical membership. Speech acts gathered suggest four emergent themes: the discourse of category membership, the dichotomy of normal and abnormal, issues of place and space, and fear. These themes were explicated from a social constructionist perspective, displaying the way speech acts construct mental retardation and subvert individuals with the label into demeaned and ridiculed objects of cultural fear.

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