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The Art of Conversation is a major contribution to the socialhistory of language - a relatively new field which has become thefocus of lively interdisciplinary debate in recent years.

Drawing on the work of sociolinguists and others, Burke uses theirconcept while reserving the right to qualify their theories wherethe historical record makes this seem appropriate. Like thesociolinguists, Burke in concerned with the way language variesaccording to who is communicating to whom, on what occasion, inwhat medium and on what topic. Unlike many sociolinguists, Burkeadds a historical dimension, treating language as an inseparablepart of social history.

This approach is outlined and justified in the first chapter andthen exemplified in the remaining four, which deal with the earlymodern period. Among the topics discussed are the changing role ofLatin, which is shown to be very much alive in the age of itsalleged decline; language and identity in Italy, a politicallydivided region at the time but one where educated elites had acommon language; the art of conversation, in other words the adviceon speaking in polite company offered in hundreds of treaties ofthe period; and silence, viewed as an act of communication with asignificance which changes over time and varies according to thesetting and the persons who are silent.

The Art of Conversation will be of great interest to students andscholars in social and cultural history, linguistics, the sociologyof language and the ethnography of communication.
Published: Wiley on
ISBN: 9780745665825
List price: $29.95
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