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Historical (Im)politeness


Edited By Jonathan Culpeper and Dániel Z. Kádár

This edited collection investigates historical linguistic politeness and impoliteness. Although some research has been undertaken uniting politeness and historical pragmatics, it has been sporadic at best, and often limited to traditional theoretical approaches. This is a strange state of affairs, because politeness plays a central role in the social dynamics of language. This collection, containing contributions from renowned experts, aims to fill this hiatus, bringing together cutting-edge research. Not only does it illuminate the language usage of earlier periods, but by examining the past it places politeness today in context. Such a diachronic perspective also affords a further test-bed for current models of politeness. This volume provides insights into historical aspects of language, particularly items regularly deployed for politeness functions, and the social, particularly interpersonal, contexts with which it interacts. It also sheds light on how (social) meanings are dynamically constructed in situ, and probes various theoretical aspects of politeness. Its papers deploy a range of multilingual (e.g. English, Spanish, Italian and Chinese) diachronic data drawn from different genres such as letters, dramas, witch trials and manners books.


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Epistolary Presentation Rituals Face-work, Politeness, and Ritual Display in Early Modern Dutch Letter-Writing As in the case of clothes, so in that of language, the apparently ‘superficial’ deserves to be studied as a system of signs expressing what lies underneath. Peter Burke: A Civil Tongue (2000: 48) 1. Things done and not done: face-work, (im)politeness, and the interaction order In a compelling historical novel entitled The Last English King, Julian Rathbone pictures the scene where Leofwine, younger brother to the future last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, informs the present, penultimate ‘English’ king, Edward the Confessor, about an interna- tional conspiracy against his person in which his own mother, Emma of Normandy, has a vital part. Leofwine mentions that according to his father, Godwin, Earl of Wessex, they should at once travel to Win- chester, Queen Emma’s abode, “before she has news that we are on our way”. When Harold, who is also present, inquires after the exact purpose of this venture, Leofwine explains: “To take her treasure off her before she can plan any more mischief with it, and put her in a house of seclusion.” He turned to Edward. “Not a prison, but under watch by people we can trust.” “And the treasure?” A brief pause. “Why, to be placed in the King’s treasury. Of course.” Harold turned to Edward. Marcel Bax38 “Would that be your wish too?” Just once, Edward thought, you might bother with a Sire, or a Majesty, or even Your Grace. “All right. But...

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