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Historical (Im)politeness

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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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JIM O’DRISCOLL

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Epilogue 1. Introduction I write this “critical reaction to, and constructive summary of, the findings of the authors” (as the editors call it) as an outsider. I have no specialised knowledge of the linguistic and interpersonal practices of any of the times and places examined by the contributors. I am there- fore in no position to offer any sort of critique of their substantive findings. Instead, much of what follows is framed as a commentary on how the practices which they analyse differ from those with which I myself am intimately familiar. As someone who was born in the mid- dle of the 20th century in Britain and has lived all but four years of his life in various parts of Europe, I can fairly safely characterise these practices as ‘present-day western’. 1 Indeed, some of what follows could more properly be described as characterisation of present-day western practices – and thus not ‘historical’ at all. But I presume that, notwithstanding the more specific objectives outlined in the introduc- tion to this volume, that this is precisely the broad value of the histori- cal politeness enterprise – it encourages us to view our own practices in a new light. In this respect, historical politeness studies have a great deal in common with cross-cultural ones. Like the latter, they either My thanks to Dániel Z. Kádár and Jessica Malay for encouraging reactions to vague ideas of mine which they then filled out. Neither, though, is responsible for the actual filling...

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