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Hndbcoks of Pragmatics

F{istorical Pragmatics

Eclitors

Edired by

Wolfram Bublitz
Andreas H. Jucker
Klaus P. Schneicler

Andreas H. Jucker
Irma Taavitsainen

Volume

De Gruyter Mouton

De Gruyter Mouton
5,

r .{{,

t4.

Politeness
Minna Nevala

t.

Introduction

Verbal interaction can be analysed in terms of social attributes. When such interaction is studied as a strategic phenomenon, it rnay be taken to be influenced by
various pragrnatic factors" Politeness is an essential part of social relations: not
only the lvay in which the speaker approaches the hearer but even more so the hearer's evaluation of the speaker's words has an effect on the rest of their interaction"
Politeness, or the lack of it, may show either in the mclod or contents of the whole
utterance or it may manifest itself in separate markers like address forms and
modal expressions.
'Ihis chapter will present an overview ol how Lroth politeness and impoliteness
have been studied as factors underlying historical language use, mainly in Niiddle
and Early Modern English data" The discussion on (im)politeness here largely relates to the micropragmatics of address terms introduced in the chapter by Mazzon
(this volume), as well as to the overview of interactive c:haracterjstics of speech
acts in the chapter: by Archer (this volume). 'Ihis only goes to show how deeply different linguistic concepts, elements and methods are interrelated and partly overlapping, particularly in sociopragmatics, which is, in turn, discussed in more depth
in the chapter by Culpeper (this volume).
Most of the studies in the historical field have taken modern politeness theories
as a point of departr-rre: the most commonly tested ideas on polite language come
from Brown and Levinson's (1978, 1987) theory. The concepts of face, power, distance and positive/negative politeness trave all been increasingly attested also in
historical material, such as personal or business letters, courtroom discourse,
drama, literature and didactic dialogues. Another centrai aspect of politeness
studies has been the interactional status, or role, which the speaker establishes in a
discourse situation. Whereas the social status of the speaker is a relatively fixed
characteristic, the interactional role is more flexible and usually relates to the nature of the relationship between the interactants, as well as to temporary shifts in
intentionality and power.r T'he role also concerns the nature of (im)politeness as a
whole: the debate on how niuch our understanding of language use as polite or impolite is influenced by the speaker, a.nd how much by the hearer response.
'fhe functional approach is particularly applicable to address terms, which
often show variation even within the same person's speech or writing, and in similar contexts. Fluctuatic;n in the polite use of thou andyoLLhas mostly been studied
in dialogic material, such as court records and plays, which seem better suited for

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Vlinna Nevaia

Politeness 421

looking at reasons for changes in reciprocal politeness than, for example, fiction
and letters (e.g. Kielkiewicz-Janowiak 1992; Bruti 2000; Nevala 2004: Kohnen

2"1,.

2008a and 2008b). In particular, studies that compare court language with dramatic
dialogue have revealed differing patterns in the written and spoken forms of polite
language use. In addition to address terms, there have also been studies on power
and solidarity (e.g. Brown and Gilman 1960, 1989; Calvo L99l; Hart 2000), deference (Fitzmaurice 2001), politeness strategies (Kopytko 1993,I995; Tieken-Boon
van Ostade 1999; Martino 2000) and gender-specific use of politeness (Pakkala-

The ciscussion around the concept of politeness itself has been going
on for more
than two decades. one of the most debatecl definitions of what constitutes
polite
language use is, of course, that discussed in Brown and Levinsion,s theory.
But, as
Meier (1995), for one, notes, although Brown and Levinson have formulated
a theory of politeness, the term is never actually defined in their book. Instead,
they
focus on describing politeness via accounts of negative ancl positive politeness
strategies" To them, understanding how people ,rr" iunguuge in a
strategic" mean-

Weckstrm 2002,2003). The few studies on impoliteness in historicerl material


have, on the other hand, concentrated on insulting speech acts and aggressive language use, hostility and verbal "duelling" (e.g.Culpeper 1996, 1998; Bax 1999;
Jucker and Taavitsainen 2000; Kryk-Kastovsky 2006; Rudanko 2006; Chapman
2008). The material for these studies has mainly been taken tiom drama as well as

authentic courtroonl discourse.


One of the reasons for the dominance of stuciies on polite language use over lin-

guistic impoliteness concerns the prevalent interest in flrst-order normative

ap-

proaches to politeness in general. The situation is gradually imprclving, since mod-

els such as those in Culpeper (1996) and Culpeper, Bousfield and Wichmann
(2003) are being increasingly used and modified, and also significantly revised by
the original authors themselves, to suit the analyses of different modern and historical data (see e.g. Culpeper 2005, 2008; Archer 2008; Bousfield 2008a, 2008b;
Bousfield and Culpeper 2008; Locher and Bousfield 2008). The same recurrent
themes are taken up in the context of both politeness and impoliteness theories and
their applications: the principles of (ini)polite language use and its universal features have been a hotbed of modern politeness research for several decades, and, as
my following synthesis will show, have recently started to emerge in the field clf

historical pragmatics as well.

2.

What is politeness? On the conternporary theoretical background

As studies on premodern data show, historical (im)politeness research has

been

relatively successfully built on modern politeness models and theories. lnstead of


an in-depth examination of well-known theories, like Bror,vn and Levinson's
(1978, 1987) orWatts's (2003) niodels, I will discuss here some of the ba.sic politeness issues that have been the cause of debate over the past two decades. Since
issues concerning polite language use, power, distance and positive/negative politeness are increasingly recurrent themes in historical pragmatics as well, I will
concentrate more closely on some facts about these topics in this section.

Definition of politeness

ingful way requires reconstructing speakers' communicative intentions and


the

logic behind their linguistic choices (Brown and Levinson 19g7: g).
This strategicness of politeness to redress face threats has been
<lpposed by a
number of scholars, mainly because it is said to describe politeness
,,linguistic
as a
gambit" instead of seeing poiiteness as the basis for all interaction
and language
use (Sell 1992:114; Diamond 1996:146-5. Therefore, there
have been claims that
we should abandon the word "politeness" altogether, since
it conngtates politeness
as a moral or psychological element (e.g.'rhomas 1995:
r7g-r79). one possrble
alternatjve term suggested is "indirectness", which, in f-act, is
exactly the concept
that Held (1992:141) accuses Brown and Levinson of overly empiasising
(see
also section 3"2 below on a historical view of the relationship
letr,veen indirectness

and politeness).

Moral interpretations of politeness may also concern the cultural


and ideoi'gical conceptions of the word (for the relationship between
language and t.he icleology of politeness, see e"g. Watts lggg). Terminoiogy not
connecte6

with the speaker's psychological disposition is increasingly pr;ierred. In


Meier,s (1995: 351)
view, we do not need to describe rJifferent typei of politenes,s,
but rather fbcus on
socially appropriate language behaviour 1whic,h, accordins to
him. is not often
done when following Brown and Levinson's concepts)"
watts (rgg2,2003: 4,r--4g,
25'l; see also Janney and Arndt 1992:23 for social polit.n*s,
vs" tact) distinguishes
polite behaviour from politic behaviclur, and orgr., that
when politeness is treated
as a theoretical concept, it is separated from its
social context and the individuals
who use it. Politeness in general concerns behaviour
that g0es',beyond,,politic behaviour, i'e' the linguistic or non-linguistic behaviour
that is evaluated by the participants as appropriate to the ongoing situation (Watts
2003:21, also tqq: l3s;.2
lnteractants are central also to Fraser (1990: 233)
who equates polireness with
speakers of a language, no[ with any linguistic
means"
The view of politeness as a deeply social phenornenon
is sharecl by many
scholars. For one, Eelen (2001 : 2,1.6, 24g, 25i)
accuses ,,traclitional content_
oriented descriptions" as being like the "etrquette
books they so often dismiss as
'popular' ancl 'unscientific"', and calls for
foliteness studies based on everyday
politeness (see Eelen i999 for a more comprehensive
account of the .,commonsense" vs' "linguistic" stttdies on politeness).
Speech communities
rnay then show

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Minna Nevala

politeness

i-

varying interpretations, or folk-notions, of politeness. According to House ancl


Kasper (1981 157), politeness is a specifically urbane form of emotional control.3
It can also be separated from what is considered "normal" behaviour: it includes
the kind of language used "beyond" what is expected in a communicative situation.
Watts (1992 65-67,2003: 19,21, 133,156,169; see also Thomas 1995 152)
also sees this normal behaviour as politic and argues that, for example, forms of address do not represent politeness at all, unless they are used "in excess" of what is
necessary, in which case they become a conscious choice of the speaker. We
should, of course, remember that when we start talking about any conscious
choices made in a communicative situation, it is, as Watts argues, the interactants
themselves who define the "norm" for each encounter, not the researcher (see section 5 below for further discussion; also Jucker 2008: 23-24)"
As one of the latest discussants on politeness theory, Haugh ar_ques that "the
postmodern approach" employed by, for example, Watts (2003, 2005) and Locher
and Watts (2005) abandons not only a predictive and a descriptive theory of politeness, but also "any attempts to develop a universal, cross-culturally valid theory
of politeness" (Haugh2007:291). This results in a situation in which a theory of
politeness is not seen as a necessary element, and thus the focus of politeness researchers easily shifts to broader issues of interpersonal interaction or "relational
work" (L,ocher and Watts 2005)" Whether it is possible to formulate a universal
politeness theory an issue that has been, and no doubt will continue to be, at the
centre of attention in the fields of pragmatics and discourse analysis, very nruch so
because of the great ditTerences between polite language use in the western and
eastern hemispheres.a

').2.

423

the concepts are considered difficult to clefine,


both fiom the historical and the
modern perspective. According to"rhomas (lgg5:
l2g), power and distance are
often confused with each other, since people
tend to be socially distant from those
superior in power. Also wetzel ( I gg3: +02) describes
power as a ,,slippery concept
at best' and ineffective at worst", and concludes
that iiis extrem"ry oiin.ult to find
a neutral term that would cover the meaning
of power in most cultures (for a more
complete discussion of power and distan. u, pragmotic
concepts, see spencer_

Oatey 1996)"
The variability of power can be seen either
as intent.ional or unintentional, or as
negotiable and interactive (Diamond 1 996: r-56;
Hart 2000:2r0).Moreover, it can
be thought of both in terms of a capacity to
reach a goal and in termsi of relational
power over the other petson.6 Djstance usually
.orr.lut., with negative politeness,
and many studies have shown that relational
.lor.n"r* induces explicit speech

and
directness, since informality is something that
is expected of the interactants (Dillard et al' 1991:318). Similarly, intentional
hostility or rudeness can cause deference to be i-qnored or cliscounted (Janney and
Arndt 1992:40; see also Kasper,s no,
tion of "motivated rudeness", r990: 20g) Jary (
r99g), Lherefore, refuses to draw
any conclusions as to the nature of the relation
between a linguistic form or a pragmatic strategy ancl the values of the variables.
Culpeper (lgg6: 354),on the other
hand' reminds us that there is evi<Jence of
the ,r..ur..n.. of impoliteness in sjtuations where there is "an imbalance of power".
or in situations between extremely
close participants.'z

2.3"

Positive and negative politeness

In Rror'vn and Levinson's politeness theory, positive


politeness

Power and distance

Like the preceding aspect of Brown and Levinson's politeness theory, the sociological variables clf power and distance have been criticised from both a functional
and a structural point of view. In general, Brown and Levinson are said to represent
a traclitional approach. in which variables are related to politeness as external factors that work more closely for socially hierarchical, rather than functional, pllrposes (Werkhofer 1992: 114: for a discussion of power in both traditional and so-

cial approaches, see Eelen 200'1: 224, also Bousfield and Locher 2008). The
rnodern view, on the other hand, takes the variables as dynamic forces affecting social language Llse, and afTecting not only politeness strategies, but also the structure
of discourse itself and the negotiation of participant roles (Diamorid 1996: I49',
Blum-Kulka 1997: 53).
It has also been argued that Brown and l,evinson's definition of power and distance is vague, sirnplistic and incomplete, particularly in the historical str"rdies of
Kopytko (1993) and Brown and Gilman (1989).s It must be noted, hor,vever, that

mainly means
entphasising what people have in com.lnon
by minimising the clistance between
them' rvhereas ne-vative politeness rneans
the avoiciance of invading a person,s
privacy by increasing the distance between
the speaker and the hearer. criticism
of the concepts of positive and negative politeness
strategies can be dividecl into
two main categories' There are both those
studies thal doubt the mutual exclusiveness or unrdirectional ordering of
the strategies, and those str-rdies that question whether Brown ancl r,evinrn,, strategies
repres*nt poriteness in the flrst

place.

one o1'thclse who objec;t to the use of politeness


strategies being mutually exclusive is Blum-Kurka ( rgg2), who showi
that, f'r example, requests may show
variation between negative and positive politeness,
both of i.vhich can be applied tir
tninrmising impositiort and clistance between
the interactants on an expressional
level" chen (2001) also suggests that
politeness should be str-rdied consiering
the
complexit'y of social interaction ancl the
multifacetedness of utterances, since a
single utterance can be usecr to pertbrm
many acts, ancl a singie speech act can
threaten both positive ancr n"guiiu.
face (see arso Thomas r995: 176). In fact,

424

iVlinna Nevala

Manes and Wolfson (1981: 130-131) have found that some strategies that have
been considered by Brown and Levinson as threatening negative face can be used
to create or affirm solidarity, i.e. to attend to positive face. Such is the case with
complimenting, for example (see Brown and Levinson 1987: 66 for their interpretation). Negative face cannot thus always be redressed by negative politeness strategies, nor positive face with positive strategies, since politeness "stretches over
more than one speech event" (Watts 2003:93-95: for a discussion of the applicability of negative politeness in historical research, see Held 2010 in section 5
below).
Those theories that criticise the overall existence of politeness in the strategies
include Watts (2003: 95,97) who, as already mentioned in the previous section, argues that what Brown and Levinson call positive and negative strategies are more
strategies of facework than politeness.B According to Watts, it is arguable whether
all utterances, or lir-rguistic structures, represent linguistic politeness. Sell (1992:
115-ll6) argues that politeness on the whole "is neither here nor there", and that
sornetimes politeness can be achieved, in fact, by being impolite.
Diamond (1996: 49) links social "group preservation" and "self assertion"
with people's use of negative and positive politeness, although she prefers to call
the strategies "deference" and "solidarity""r In lde's (1989: 239) opinion, Brown
and Levinson mix behavioural strategies with linguistic strategies, and do not
properly allow the existence of formal elements that are not always volitional,
such as honorifics (for f'urther discussion see Matsumoto 1989; concerning historical research, see also Kdr2007). Brown and Levinson (1987: 230) do, however,
also discuss cases of mixing elements of both strategies, and admit that, for
example, in some utterances, negativeiy polite techniques, such as using tag-questions, may still end up being interpreted as positively polite. They call this kind of
strategy a hybrid strategy. They (1987: l8) also admit that they may have been in
error in setting aside two mutually exclusive strategies, altliough they persist that
confusion in the interpretation of which strategy is used may be due to the fact that
the use of linguistic elements like address fbrms can be subject to dualistic evaluation.

Brown and Levinson's politeness theory has been shown by many to be useful
and flexible, particularly in the study of address use. Reasons for this include that
the differentiation between negative and positive politeness fits the complexity of
different formulae, and the fact that the model includes the variables of power and
distance helps the analysis of the social, interpersonal and hierarchical lactors in
the choice of address" Furthermore, the theory is considered broad enough to allow
not only the analysis of the use of politeness in many contemporary societies, but
also in historical ones. On the formal level, the notions of positive and negative
politeness can be used to describe how and why the forms are constructed as they
appear in various data. The strategies have allowed the study of not only variation
in the overall use of different linguistic items and the diachronic change occurring

Politeness 425
in time, but also of variation that occurs within the
items themselves.

These factors
will be explained in more detail in the following sections
on historical politeness
and impoliteness research.

3.

Politeness in historical data

using historical material means making compromises


at many dit1'erent levels.

In a
linguistic analysis, applying modern tools can be challenging
and rewarding, but

sometimes also frustrating, since present-clay


models and theories often originate

from studies of language forms and communicative


situations that greatly differ
from those of the past. There are, however, also
models of politeness

that may be,


and have in fct been, developed and applied
with historical material in mind" In
this section, I wrll first go through the seminal
studies by Brown and Gilman (1960,
1989)' then discrtss historical politeness from
both a social and a functional perspective' and finally concentrate more closely
on politeness research cond*cted on
early letters and literature.
3.1

Brown and Gilman

In one of the most central models for the diachronic


study of adclress pronouns in
Germanic and Romance languages, Brown
and Gilman ( 1g60) look at how shifts in
power and solidarity in the relationship between
the speaker and the hearer are
shown in the use of pronorninal forms (Ttul
and vfousJ). power involves..a relationship between at least two persons, ancl it
is nonreciprocal in the sense that. both
cannot have power in the same area of
behavior,, (255). Soiidarity, on the other
hand, concerns the "general relationship",
and it is a symmetricar trlhenonrenon
(258)' The analysis is mostly based on
the social perspective in that they see the
pr:imary reason for the iiifferent use of
address pronouns being status related.
Respectfui V forms are used from an inferior
to a superior, while T forms are used
either by superiors in return, or between
equals. The relationship between interactants is also marked in terms of the solidarity
semantic, scaling from mutual familiarity to clistance' In addition to being corrstrainecr
by purely social factors. the
way in which power a'nd soliclarity manifest
themselves in langr:age use can also be
affected by group normativity and indiviclual
attitude.
The results have been corroboraterJ by a later
study (Brown ancl Gilman l9g9),
which shows that the use of address pronouns
and indirect requests in shakespeare's plays also reflect the social
andcontextual positions

of the speaker and the


addressee' Solidarity aff-ects adclress
usage, which means that the pronoun you is
commonly used between equals, such
as spouses, adulf brothers and sisters, parents and their adult children, and gentle-born
friends" The use of thott is, on the

other hand, largely restricted to inieraction


bet."veen members of ungentle ranks.

426

Politeness 421

Nlinna Nevala

plays'*were chosbn because they provide good information on colloquial speech


of the Shakespeare era. The basis for the study is the notions of power, distance and
ranking of a face-threatening act, which are the dimensions of contrast in the minimaily contrasted dyads Brown and Gilman set out to search for in the plays.

When such a pair is found, the two speeches are scored for politeness. Brown and
Gilman (1989: 166) also oppose mutual exclusiveness and present a modified version of the strategies, in which both are subsumed under a single strategy of redress
r,vhere they may or may not be mixed. This means that politeness strategies work
on the "few-many" scale, which suggests that when a face-threatening act is redressed, the amount of redress will increase as the risk of face loss of weightiness
(W*) increases.
Brown and Gilman discuss deference in the tragedies by dividing names and

titles, for exarrrple, inio separate categories and scoring them on a scale from-l to
+2.The categories include names with honorific adjectives (e.g, vrtliant Othello),
'Ihe first
unadorned titles (e.g. sir, madarn) and adornerl titles (e.g. gentle lady).
points.
Christian
with
two
third
point,
the
and
and second are scored with one
names alone form a neutral category, and therefore score no points fbr deference
(except for royaity). Points are then added, which means that positively polite and
negatively polite terms are combined to make up a total score. The method makes
it difficult to differentiate between mixed forms of address, and it can be argued
thlt the detailed model complicates, for example, the classification of such formulae as my respectfut Lord and my dear Lord by giving them the sa.me number of
points.

Furthermore, Brown and Clilman argue that politeness in Shakespeare is "governed by feeling", and that an additional parameter of "relationship al-fect" should
be adclecl to Brown and Levinson's variables. Instead of talking about pclwer, distance and ranking of imposition, we should be talking about power, affection and
extremity gf face threat (1989: 168, I 96, I99). How Brown and Gilman's interpretation cliffers from that of Brown and Levinson is not exhaustively explained in the
study, since variation in the degree of politeness within the material itself cannot be
explained by genre characteristics alone.10

Brown and Gilman's controversial, and in part vague, article has given cause to
many later studies, mainly on the use of address terms and pronouns. As one of the
later researchers on the subject, Busse (2003; see also lv{azzon 2003) looks at adclress in Shakespeare's plays. His aim is to study whether Brown and Gilman's
clairn that the address pronouns follow the status rule in a predictable manner can
be validateci, by fclcusing on both the pronominal and the nominal forrrs. His results show that their model is too rigi<l, mainly because "for meaningfirl pronoun
choices there is an overlap and often also a clash clf permanent, or relatively stable
social factors, temporary attitudes, shifts in feeiin-e, etc." (Bttsse 2003: 215). He
also emphasises the fact that the literary genl'e alone affects pronoun use to a sig*
nificalt clegree, although in his opinion there is no reason to doubt that Shakes-

peare presented authentic language in his plays. However, some pronoun choices
may have been made, for example, for the sake of rhyme and metre, or dramatic effect.
Studies of the pronouns of address in a literary, constructed dialogue have indeed led to questions about the validity of the data as a proper indicator of historical pronoun usage" Although Brown and Gilman (1989: 179) claim that, in their research on Shakespeare's plays, tlzou and you ate not "very important in scoring
speech for politeness", one cannot deny the central role address pronouns have, especially in authentic spoken and written material . Mazzon (2003: 227) points out,
contrary to Brown and Gilman, that the politeness value of the address pronouns
cannot be overlooked even in a constructed dialogue, because t-he pronouns are an
unavoidable part of address. In her opinion, pronollns "contribute, at least on the
same level as nominal address and perhaps even more powerfully, to the 'face-dy-

namics' of severai exchanges'. (iviazzon 2A03:228't.


On the other hand, Braun (1988: 36,260) points out that the tendency for T
forms to be associated with inferiority and V fbrms with superiority should not be
considered in any way universal, as suggested by tsrown and Gilman, although she
admits that the solidarity dichotomy prevails in many languages and societies (see
also Mazzon 2000; Stein 2003)" In wales's ( 1983: 108, I 14--115) view, Brown and
Giiman are too vague in attributing pronoun shifts to changes in terms of solidarity,
since this approach cannot explain, for example, the diachronic change, i.e. why
thou disappeared and you prevailed. Not all fluctuation can be explained as emotjona.l and social; instead, there might well be a sernantic overlap that would better
explain variaticln in terrns of politeness (for further criticisn on Brown and Gilman. see Miihlhusler and Harrd 1990: Calvo 1992)"

3.2.

Social and functional perspectives to historical politeness

Both nominal forms of address and persclnal pronouns have been tackled in other
studies on early English as well. Research questions have varied both according to
available material, i.e. written vs. spoken, and according tcl the type of approach" I
will here list some previous studies from a sociaJ as well as functional perspective.

By the social approach I mean those studies on poiiteness that focus more on the
descriptive aspects of the social identity of the speaker and the addressee , i.e. social status, as well as on the inrpiications of power and solidarity in the relationship
between the speaker and the hearer. The functional approach, on the other hand,
comprises research that concentrates on the rnore pragmatic or discourse analytic
side of address use, and that goes deeper into the micro-level of emotive and situational aspects. In most cases, horvever, analyses on the use of politeness employ
both the social and the functional approach.
The implications of social status and distance have treen iooked at in many
studies of authentic and fictive address use in early English (e.g. Kielkiewicz-Ja-

428

Minna Nevala

nowiak tgT2; Calvo iggZ: Nevalainen 1994: Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg


1995; Raumolirr-Brunberg 1996: Nlagnusson 1999; Tieken-Boon van Ostade 1999;
Mazzon 2000; Blake 2002, Fitzmaurice2002; Nevala 2002,2003).rrSocial distance, in particular, has been considered an influential factor in the development of
both nominal and pronominal forms of address. In some cases, social constraints
and norms have been found to outweigh interpersonal or interactional factors. Such
is the case, for example, in relationships or situations that involve social mobility
(Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 1995 Nevala 2002). The choice between dif-

ferent polite forms can, on the other hand, be considered a highly conscious one,
and therefore different approaches on address use often involve not only the social
and conventional, but also the functional factors concerning the attitudinal and
situational background of the interaction (see e.g" Pakkala-Weckstrm2002,2003;
Burnley 2003).
The rnore functionai approach goes deeply into the contextual level of the text"
It has been used in studies by Hope (1993, 1994), Jucker (2000), Bruti (2000) and
Honegger (2003), to mention a few. Here, the social status of the writer/speaker is
not the primary point of departure; instead, differences in the use of address are
seen as momentary shifts that derive frclm the context of the utterance. According
to Bruti (2000: 28; also Bentivoglio 2003: 188), for example, fluctuation in the use
of address terms is not necessarily triggered by shifts in social status but caused by
variation in re_gister and style or changes in emotional and affective attitudes of the
speaker.

The more central aspect in anaiysing politeness is, then, the interactional status
that the speaker establishes in a discourse situation. The social status of the interactants is considered a relatively fixed characteristic, whiie their social roles are
seen as more flexible and dependent on the nature of interpersonal relationships
and temporary shifts in power (Jucker 2000; see also Calvo 1992). "Ihe choice between address forms is not governed by rigid conventions, and so situational
changes have a strong influence on, for example, which pronoun of address is
chosen. In her study of Shakespeare's language, Calvo (1991: 16-17) sees any
shifts between the two pronouns as triggered by speech acts, so that, for example,
thctn is usually used in insults, apostrophes, promises and expressions of gratitude.
Shifts also seem to correlate with a change of topic as well as with the beginning
and ending of sections in dialogue. In general, changing the pronoun of address can
be anaiysed as a textual marker that indicates that the interaction "is taking a new
direction" (Caivo 1991: l7).
Fluctuation in the use of thou and you has mostly been studied in dialogic material, such as collrt records and plays, which seem better suited for looking at reasons for changes in reciprocal address usage than, for example, fiction and letters.
Particularly studies that compare court language with drarnatic dialogue have revealed differing patterns in the written and spoken use of address.12 In one such
study, Hope (1993: 97) contrasts court records with, for example, Shakespeare's

Politeness

429

plays, and his results show that by the middle of the sixteenth century, the use of
thou andyou was already different in speech ancl wriring (see also Mazzon 2003:
239; Bergs 2004)" In his later study, Hope (1994:147) distinguishes between
social
status and situational fluctuation, and concludes that the micropragmatic shifting
frorn one address pronoun to another is mostly restricted to "exchanges,,, i.e. conversations in which both participants use address pronouns" instead of "addresses,,,
i.e" discourse where only one participant uses address. I{ope (1994: L44-145)
illustrates an emotive use of thou in an exchange from the Durham depositions by
the following excerpr (l) (italics original):
(1.) Bullman's wife Ito Styllynpe/: ,.Noughtie pak,,
styllynge fto Bullrnan's wifel: "what nowtynes know youby me? I am neyther
goossteler nor steg [gander] steiler, I would yoa knelv ytt,'

Bullman's wife [to styllynge]: "what, noughty hoore, caull thoy me goose
steiler?"

styllynge [to Bullman's wife]: "Nay, mayry, I know thee for no such, but I
thank you f.or yonr good reporte, whills yott and I talk futher',r3
Here an opening insult is followect by a more subtle counter.insuit, which implies
that Bullman's wife herself is a goosestealer. This provokes Bullman's wife to a
further attack and the use of thou, to which Styllynge then answers first using thou,

but then changing back to you.This, in Hope's opinion, ,,retains for styllynge
the
high moral ground of restraint, and implies a superiority in keeping wittr the
formal

tone" (1994:145).
Walker (2000, 2003) makes a comparison sirnilar to Hope's between drama
texts and authentic speech from court records. She notes thliL thott used
in the clepositions is heavily marked, mostly to express either emotion or the
inferiority of
the addr:essee, whereasyoLt is used as the neutral form. Not surprisingly,
she fincls
that in drama the choice between the two pronollns seems to be based
more on artistic means than on contemporary usage!.[n her later work, Walker (2007) points
out certain difficuities in applying politeness theory to the use of thott
and..yort: the
use of the pronouns does not only relate to faceworl<, which leads
to another problem, namely, that if thou and you are used to reclress or miligate a face-threatening
act, they may not be effective enough in doing so. Both pronouns
can also be used
to reach the same communicative goal, for example, in insults. Hence,
she concludes that "the selection of thou and
.you cannot be predicted on the basis of politeness theory, and neither does the theory explain all pronoun
usage,, (walker
2001:461.r+

Nlodern politeness theory has ;rlso proved somewhat inadequate in


studies that
employ the functional perspective on the diachronic develclpment
of linguistic features other than address terms. Since the social and functional
perspectives are increasingly considered intertwined, as we have already seen
in this section, it
rs

practically impossible to claim that the choice of different


fbrms would be gov-

430

Minna Nevala

erned purefi by either social, societal, personal, interpersonal or interactional factors. For example, Arnovick (2000: 117-I18) talks about the relatic-rnship between
negative politeness and discursisation, i.e. the process of illocutionary "smoothing" of tlre discourse function of a linguistic item, such as goodbye. She argues that
the term was discursised partly because there was a need for something to mark the
closure of an interactional sequence. Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Faya Cerqueiro
(2007:440) also suggest that the word please was developed as a negative politeness marker in encounters between servants and their social superiors mainly because of the need for more or new politeness terms in power-related discourse during the Late Modern English period.
Similarly, the pr:oblematic relationship between distauce, indirectness and politeness is taken up by Del Lungo Camjciotti (2008) whose study on directives and
commissives in early English business correspondence touches on the issue of ritualised language use and conventionalisation. She (2008: 119) reminds us that in
past politeness researh tn" notion of politeness has been partly linked to how direct or indirect a person is, for example, in requesting someone to do something or
committing oneself to a course of action.l5 Indirectness has sometimes been consiclered a corelative to polileness. Recently, Culpeper and Archer (2008: 76) have
argued, however, that indirectness and politeness cannot be taken as necessary correlates, ancl therefore we rnust be careful not to make any definite conclusions, for
example, on eariy cultures being "less polite" than present-day ones (see also discussion in section 5 beiow).

.3"3.

Early letters and literature: Politeness, facelork or discernment?

Ilrown and Levinson's concepts of positive politeness and negative politeness have
been the basis mostly for analyses of address formulae in literary as well as in nonliterary texts. In addition to studies of address used in drama and courtroom discourse (e.g. Hope 1993 Nevalainen 1,994; Walker 2007), private letters have

yielded fruitful material for this purpose. In their article on salutational forms of
address in personal early English correspondence, Nevalainen and RaumolinBrunberg (1995) make a thorough pragmatic survev of both diachronic trends and
'I'hey acsocial differences, studying the increase in positive politeness strate-qies"
knowiedge the method introduced by Brown and Gilman ( 1989), but conclude,
however, that because of the structure of the address formulae in letters, using
quantitative methods like scoring causes problems in the analysis. In their opinion,
the additive models introduced by previous scholars could oniy show "shifts in the
structural complexity of address form noun phrases" (Nevalainen and RaumolinBrunberg 1995: 590). Therefore, they suggest that a qr,ralitative approach should be
used instead.

Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg's (also Raumolin-Brunberg 1996) basic


solution to the problem is an idea of a scale of politeness - a politeness continuum -

Politeness
Negative

Honorific titles
(lord)

431

Positive

Other titles

Family

(captain')

\brother)

Terms of
endearment
(sweetheart)
Nicknames

(WID
Adjectives

worshipful
honotred
Figure I. The politeness

kind

hving
continuum (adapted from Raumolin-Brunberg 1996: 171)

which can be seen in Figure 1. The scale ranges from markers of negative politehonorifics and titles, to markers of positive politeness, such as nicknames
and terms of endearment. Occupational tjtles and kinship terms are placed in the
middle of the scale, since they often appear within the same context as the forms at
either end of the scale (i.e. Captnin Johnson and Brother Joh.n).
Nevala (2003) has nrade even finer distinctions within Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg's scalar politenes.s model in her study on address forrns in Early Modern English tamily correspondence" Her analysis shows that, on the whole, the
positive end of the scale is better represented than the negative encl, ancl there is a
general movement towards the positive end from the fitteenth to the seventeenth
century. 'Ierms showing positive politeness increase in letters between spouses, in
ness, i.e.

particular. The address forms also become simpler, but this does not seem to have a
noticeable effect on the degree of positive politeness" Instead, it seerns that power
is a weightier factor in the diachronic increase in positive politeness at least: it
spreads more slowly in letters written from a family member of less relative power
to a member of more power, at least in the.case of a chilcl writing to his/her parent.
Similarly, the use of positive politeness does not necessarily extend as far in their
letters as it does in those written by famiiy members of rnore power.
So, the writet's social role and thus the power characterjstics seem to affect the
use of address forms to a certain degree. Nevala (2002) also comes to similar conclusions when tooking at address pronouns: early English letter writers tencl to use
thou to their int-eriors and )rou to their sgperiors. The seventeenth century appears
to have been decisive in this respect as well, since there seems to have been "a
breach" of the power rule. This means that wii'e.s, mosrly considered as having inferior status, be-ein to address their husbancls lvith thotL. Example (2), from a letter
by a seventeenth-century lvife, Maria'Ihynne, to her husband, uses both a term of
endearment and the pronoun r/zozl (Nevala 2003: I4l):

432

Politerress 433

Minna Nevala

(Z) MineTwn
a iarge

sweet Thomken,I have no longer ago than the last night wrttten such

volume in praise of thy kindness to me

["']'6

positive and
This development may be seen as the result of the increase in the more
between
closeness
and
of
intimacy
encouraging attitude towards the expression
to a
be
influenced
to
seems
also
pronouns
friends and family. The use of address
members
between
affection
and
intimacy
of
level
certain degree by the situational
cannot be
of a family and close friends, yet mostly the choice between thort andl'orr
(see also
context
situational
or
strategies
politeness
in
of
shifts
terms
explained in
Busse 2002; Walker in the previous section)'
to be
These studies indicate that the need to show group membership appears
in a
politeness
of
understanding
one of the central factors that affect the use and
use
clf
the
endorsing
in
influential
is
language" Particularly in-.group membership
(Nevalattributes
qualifying
and
address
of
,u rters of politeness as terms
20a4: 2,131)"
ainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 1995: 588; Nevala 2003: 160 and
we look at
when
crucial
more
even
become
knowledge
shared
anci
Group dynamics
and referforms
address
of
study
contrastive
In
her
people.
to
refer
to
,"r*, usecl
to
identify
the
need
ential terms, Nevala (iOOq:2,150) has found that, in reference,
polpositively
most
the referent,.neutralises" the forms which could be considered
loses
scale
politeness
the
respect,
ite in direct address (e.g. first names), and, in this
proposes that
sorle of its importance. ln her forthcoming study, Nevala therefore
rather
is
facework
reference
of
context
the
in
what we should actually talk about
than politeness as such.
in the
seil t1985: 501), stuclying chaucer, proposes an alternative to facework
preserve
to
need
one's
means
basically
which
equilibrium,
-qroup
forrn of ritual
the meta-level,
solidarity and, at the same time, to mitigate clisagreement' Yet, on

offending
he talks about selectionai politeness (i.e. the writer's choice of never
polpresentational
and
readers or challenging their tastes, dignity or importance)
a
way'
In
is
meant)'
what
or
happening
is
iteness (i.e. the writer tells everything that
politeness and
we can draw some similarities between what Sell calls selectional
in both
discourse:
humiliative
calls
(2002:258)
what, for example, Fitzmaurice
in
position
favourable
a
in
audience
or
addressee
his/her
puts
oases, the writer
danger
the
is
always
there
adds,
Fitzmaurice
as
But,
acceptance.
their
or6er to win
to the addressee's
that the writer may risk his/her own negative face by attendirlg
or literature as
drama
in
high
positive face. This pragmatic risk is not, of course, as
(see
Fitzmaurice
alscl
in the more p.rronol and interactive genre of correspondence
2006).
of variation we
Genre and register variatirln is, of coufse, not the only kind
Kohnen
interaction.
in
early
politeness
of
can find influencing our unclerstanding
speech
on
studies
his
in
variation
diachronic
tackles
zoogu)
(2004, 200ga ana
it was
rhar
found
has
(2004:
172)
He
English.
Modern
Early
to
acts from oid
until the late midclle and early modern periods that what researchers today

not

call politeness and facework started to show in language use. Directive

speech

acts were, for exarnple, considered mclre face threatening than before, which resulted in people developing additional politeness strategies (also Kohnen 2008b:

3910).
The situation thus seems rather different if we look at the earliest periods in the

history of English. In his study on Old English directives, Kohnen (2008a: 155)
does not refer to politeness and facework, but rather talks about "the sense of discernment", or politic behaviour, that was triggered by the rigid social structure of
the time. Particularly in religious instruction, the Christian models of h.umilita,s and
oboedientia were considered factors uniting people. 'l'he choice of directives was
not necessarily determined by facework, but served other purposes of urgency or
necessity (Kohnen 2008b: 4l). This kind of discernment (politeness) refers to behavionr that is socially adequate and relates to the social constraints of maintaining
reiationships. Basically, it does not contradict facework-based politerress; rather, as
.lucker argues, both types of politeness are only "different aspects of verbal interaction" (2010). 'Ihe main difference lies in how rnuch weight is lent to each type in
different societies and time periods.

4.

Irnpoliteness in historical data

Studies on how impoliteness is revealed in historical language use havs begun tcr
gain more ground during the past decade" New links have been drawn not only between impoliteness and insulting language, but also in reference to hostility, aggravation and verbal duelling. In this section, I will firstly discuss some of the issues
that have been raised in present studies on the concept clf impoliteness in general,
and then move on to give examples of impoliteness in historical drama and cour.
troorn discourse.

4.I.

Identifying impoliteness in historical interaction

Culpeper's (1996) seminal article on impoliteness strategies has given rise to various studies on the use of impoliteness in both conternporary and historical material. ln his study, impoliteness is seen as a series of communicative strrtegies designed to attack face, and thus to cause social conflict and disharmony (Culpeper,
Bousfield and Wichmann 2003: 1,546)" Face attack may be either intentional, perceived as intentional, or both; or else, not intentional but perceived as such. The
1996 article addresses a historical aspect as Culpeper shows how, in Shakespeare's
work, irnpoliteness can be used as a strategic, multipurpose tool: in Mctcbeth, for
example, Lady Macbeth attacks her husband's face with impoliteness, which is
meant not only to function as an insult but also as an incentive for him to get back
intcl his masculine role after a mornentary relapse (1996: 365). ln example (3), the

434

Minna Nevaia

politeness

opening, "Are you a man?", serves as an implication of Macbeth lacking the characteristics of a man, and escalates into a further attack on his masculinity ("A
woman's story at a winter's fire, Authoris'd by her grandam").
13) Lady Macbeth Are you a man?
Macbeth Ay, and a bold one that dare look on that
Which might appal the Devil.
Lady Macbeth O proper stuff!
This is the very painting of your fear;
This is the air-drawn dagger which you said,
Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts Impostors to true fear - would well become
A woman's story at a winter's fire,
. Authoris'd by her grandam. Sharne itself!
Why do you make such faces? When all's done,
You look but on a stooi.lT

Also in his later studies, Culpeper (1998) touches on the more general question of
how important this kind of conflict is in the furthering of plot and characterisation
in drama texts. One particular issue that Culpeper raises in his later discussion of
the strategic use of impoliteness relates to the intentionality of face-threatening
acts. Culpeper, Bousfield and Wichmann (2003) argue that earlier theories of politeness, such as Brown and Levinson's, have concentrated on speaker intentron
while failing to adhere to hearer perception on what is polite or impolite. Knowing
the discoursal background of an Lltter?ince is crucial, but, even more importantly,
we should concentrate on how the utterance is interpreted and acted upon.

If intention

is a factor that distinguishes irnpoliteness fiom politeness, as we argue, then


we need a richer understanding of an interactant's behaviour, including their prosody,
and of the discoursal context, in order to infer intentions [...] It is the response to an ut'
terance, and indeed the construction of the whole speech activity, that may determine
how that utterance is to be taken, including whether it be poiite, impolite or something
in between (Culpeper, Bousfield and Wichmann 2003: 1,576;.ts

This is, of course, one of the points that is increasingly attended to in historical
studies of impoliteness as well. Jucker (2000), for one, has taken up the issue in his
study of verbal aggression in Chaucer's language. He (2000: j75) argues thatit is
only because insuits are strongly related to the perlocutionary effect that they have
on the addressee that they can be produced unintentionally. The same utterance
may be insulting for one but not for another. This also has to do with what Jucker
calls ritual vs. real insults: the insult can be either playful or serious, and the ultimate interpretation depends on how the target of the insult reacts to it or whether
(s)he knows how (s)he is expected to react to it in its situational and cultural con-

text.

similarly' Kryk-Kastovsky (2006s


tliscusses

435

,,semantic/pragmatic

lhe
sion" of "overt impolitene','i und 'tovert
clime'_
,*p"rii.""ss,, in historicar courtroom
discourse' she draws simirarities.l0
culpep"r,, .on..pr, of inherent
politeness, but als'
vs. mock im_
makes other

distinctions;";;;;,

tions' she concenrrates on wherher


an utreran..
basis of its surface representations
or whether impolitene* i, in
ferred. she (2006: 225) fincrs,
for exampr", d;;, *'u .our,.oom

"ul'lt;:.r ;:|ji:ix:';;r;il
,*,

way

in_

serring, covert im_


politeness is often used when judges,
oy conrusi'nf ;jffi;;*;,,1;"rr.r,
make rhem urtimarerv chang.
rry to
thri, given d;;;;;;;. A
more overr rype of impo_
liteness occurs in cases wheie
rhe juJge
trro, the witness is somehow
"p.;i;;i;i*,
a reriable addrlls rr,"
unequoifor", rerarion between
rhe rwo

ilXilillt"r

caring,orr,",,T;:^;_i.:liTiT:i?'*j:,il,r";;J'".ffi1x*ruT;:,

ffiHi,1ii,'j|j"ff:

op'n io judges

r.."

ur,o ,irpeper,"o

ryi"

iooo, rucker
In his study on insurring epithers
in ora Engrish, chapman (200g:
about how the force of un inrutt
6) arso tarks
lies in the facitrrui'i, tur,.t,
the rarget as undesirable and in sorne way defective"
But, as earrier ,rrol., arso
c'ncur, this undesirability must be recognised u*,u.h,
both by tt. uaJr.rsee and
by anyoneelsepres_
ent in the situation" As with
the.ur: ol.,nerminingit.
*itn.rs,s
credibjlity eirher
in a courtrooin, in Ctrupmon;,
.i.-pr.s insulrs

;J#ll":"_";Tir
ri o n

a,,

d e ri v

,.; ff

:::

ffi

jifj

are

i;,,,;
i, 3J I
:i ;T**
boos' bodily defecation ot
tittn.rr, and thus mark

the target and the


:",.b."., of .rsp..toble society.
T'he sociopsychological

Ji.l

als'

il **

:,

usecr to

m,

the grave difference between

fact tiat notro,:y *r. to


be rabered as der,e*ive
undesir.ble can' of course,
or
be taken as universar.
whathas been found as curtureand context-specific' however.
is ttre actual realisation
of impoliteness in language.
lnstead of c'ncenrrating
on ,p.rt-, inrenrions ;;;;;r",
'raavitsainen
perceptions, Jucker and
talk abouihow ,i.," uno.rrtanding
*rr", constitutes porite behaviour, or jts violation, differs
"r but
no, onti syrr.hronilallv
also diachronically. Thus,
politeness *ork.d in pasr
,o"il,i*,
may somerimes ,.be rosr to
;T:TJ:j"::,::,he fac,.rs,,
;
)
alongside the "t,
1*
f
intentionality oi iri o.,ual
:: manifestatjon
in language use. since the
two aspects are interrelated,
I will jir.u* these issues in
more depth in the ratter
*o.. crosery on Archer,s (2008) and
Rudan_
,j;]i'#;ir?J.:oncentrating

i:!!,fi !ffi

i:t

::*:

:*t; x** ;n*

''H

436

Minna Nevala

4.2.

Politeness 43i

Eistorical ro-" and courtroom discourse: Impoliteness,


aggravated impoliteness or verbal aggression?

ln one of the latest studies on historical courtroom discourse, Archer (2008)

arms

to explore the extent to which impoliteness can be understood in relation

to

"legally sanctioned" verbal aggression in the Corpus of English DiaLogues. She argues that using the term "impoiiteness" in a context where certain participants, (for
example judges) have the right to use abusive language towards others is not
necessariiy an ideal way of referring to conflictive talk in tliat particular setting"
Her basic research questions concern the way in which impoliteness is interpreted
and understood by different interactants because of, or regardless of, contextual

constraints.

Archer primarily sets out to test Culpeper's (1996; Culpeper, Bousfield and
Wichmann 2003) modei, but admits that the notion of "systematic" impoliteness
has proved ambiguLrus, mainly because systematic language use can be associated
with normative language in general and what is considered politic behaviour in
particular (cf. Watts 2003). Archer (2008: 183) argues that prototypical impoliteness is relatively uncommon in historical courtroom discourse; therefore, one
should, instead, distinguish impoliteness from verbal aggression on the basis on
Goffman's (1961) concepts of intentional, incidental and unintended face darnage.
Rather than rnaking a sharp distinction between the two concepts, Archer
understands impoliteness as a subcategory of verbal aggression. She argues that in
such historical settings as those of institutional courtroorn discourse, verbal aggression cannot primarily be considered deviant behaviclur. It only becomes
marked when it is either intended or interpreted as such, in order to intentionally
threaten face or take offence. [n her opinion, defendants, for example, come to
courl "expecting to have their behaviour questiclned and, as such, frequently anticipate accusations before they are made" (2008: 192).In other words, they are already tuned-in to a defensive and submissive mode. Judges, on the other hand, zire
the ones who control the setting and are "the final arbiters" on the manifestations of
impoliteness, allowing other interactants to use different verbal aggression techniques (2008: 203). What Archer also finds is that the judges interfere with the de*
fendants' own assessments of the gravity of face damage inflicted on them, which
clearly relates to the matter of asymmetrical power. Defendants do not, in many
cases, have a say in the matter: they cannot complain or receive compensation for
their face loss. Example (4) is a typical example from English historical courtroom
discourse, in which a judge states his superior position in relation to the defence
lawyer (Archer 2008: 202):

(4) Ld.

Jus"

Sure never any'Ihing was like this! It is our Province to give


Directions, and we think it not proper to interrupt the King's Counsel, but that
they should proceed in their own Method: You shall be heard as long as you
please, when you come to make your Observations.le
Ch.

on the basis of her analysis, Archer (2008: 204) proposes


what she calls an ..intentiona.lity scale" of verbal aggression, which *outa
,ong" from a strong to a weak
intent to harm' Similarly, Rudanko (2006) talk,s
about different grades of impoliteness and how "aggravated impoliteness"
can be placed at the hilh end of the scale"
I{is study

of impoliteness and speaker intentionln Shakespeare,s


Timon of .Athens
aims to lclok at verbal behaviour that can be
considered "beyond lack of manners
and discourtesy" (2006: 837). He argues that
the main reason fbr his use of the term
"aggravated impoliteness" is that "impoliteness"
is not a sufficjent terrn on its own
to describe all the difterent strategies that may
be used to attack face or callse conflict and disharmony in general. Aggravated face
attack happens rvhen the speaker
deliberately and intentionally aims to harm
the hearer,s face, but does not want the
hearer to recognise his/her deceptive intentions.
The ultimate goal of both "ordinary" impoliteness
and aggravated impoliteness
is thus the same' The only difference between
the two is the degree to which the
speaker intends to harm the hearer. Aggravated
impoliteness can be consiclereci .,a
rnore serious nranifestation of ill rvill or
malice than mere impoliteness,,; the latter,
in Rudanko's opinion, mostly concerns using
taboo words or being rude when p.lite
behaviour woulcl be expected (Ruclanko 2002:
838)" Nloreover, an act r:f aggravated
irnpoliteness is prototypically gratuitous, meaning
that the speaker performs jt first
and foremost to offend the hearer. It is
also fundaentally one-sidecl, since, according to Rudanko, reciprocal impolitenes,s represents ,,mere,,
impclliteness, and it is,
most importantly, deliberately planned ancl
premeclitated by the speaker as.pposed
to ordinary impoliteness, which can also
happen unintentionaly and by accident.
It is interesting to see how the scalar appioact familiar
to politeness research
has been gradually introducecl in recent
impotiteness studies. past and present analyses have already shown the complexity
r the concepts of- politeness ancl imp.liteness in historical material, and future
work will, no cloubt, reveal mo'e about
how we understand these phenomena.
I will discuss some of the current trends in
forthcoming
poriteness research in the

on future

fo'owing

section.

deveropments of historicar poriteness


research

Eariier historical studies have relied


rather heavily on rhe existing moclern theories
of how politeness is manifested in
everyday language use.

in earlier

However, as can be seen

sections of this chapter, it seems that the


focus of historical research on
poJiteness and impoliteness ii graclually
shifting from the clescription of how polIteness r'vorks in the use of micro-level

linguistic features to the context-driven


macro-level analysis of how (im)poriterr"r,
o, such was understood in past societies' This development has become
possible largely because of gror.ving
access
to various types of data, such as
letters, authentic courtroom discourse,
writing
manuals and didactic criarogues,
fiom different ranguages,

Politeness

438

439

Minna Nevala

1'

Morattentronhasthusbeenpaidtothenotionofpolitenessitself.Inmostof
Brown and Levinson's ideas

and Gilman's or
the earlier historical studies, Brown
mostly because these theories have been
say,
to
have been taken for granted, so
to almost any kind of material without
thought more flexible and easily applicable
that researchers in the field have started to
greater difficulties. It is only recently
and to construct their
the contempor.iy views on politeness

focus more beyond

own,data_drivenmodels'or,alternatively,toapplylatermoderntheoreticalbases
wansian (2003) politic behaviour vs' iinguistic
to historical material such as the
politenessdichotomy(seee.g.Kryk-Kastovsky2009)'Anincreasingnumberof
between
have tackled the parallel reiationships
studies on histori.ul in,.r""tion
politeness
and
normativity, politeness and politic behaviour'

politeness and social


politeness research is thus steadily follorving
ancl rituar ianguage use. Historical
it' has
ptit"ness re.search' which' as Haugh puts
the recent footsteps of present-aoy
(2001
296)'
"under threat"
placed the conceir,of ioliteness itielf
and
concepts of ritual language behaviour
the
studied
who^has
one of those
in
that'
in
(2008a)
Kohnen
with
ug"t'
who
politeness is Bax (2003 and 2010)20
Sowere *o," peripheral concepts in premodern
general, facework and politeness
world' As Kohnen (2008a: 155) states' facecieties than they are in the modern
as "an accomexample. felt as "a.rnenace" but rather
lhreatening acts were not, for
was' acbehaviour
self-praise, ritual language
plishment,," Just iL., io. example,
interperdefining
and
for rnodelling
corcling to Bax, "a prime semiotic "'ott"*
are trying
the problems that arises when people
of
One
(2010).
sonal relationships"
Bax calls
what
of
lack
the
is
relationships
interpret these past - and present -

to

"cormuni cative cotnPetence" :


to tackle face.
difficulties, though, aS SoOn as sihe wants
A researcher meets with serious
ways of lookthe
That
contexts'
unknown cultural
work and politeness in unfamiliar or

ingat(in)appropriatebehaviourdifferculturallyisapointmadetimeandagaininthe
relativity of linguistic politeness (e'-e' Matsumoto
of lirerature on the
spate

"ultu,o1

1988;Icle1989;Gu1990;Sifianuuiqgz),andalreadyplesentinGoffrnanwhoclaims
iefinition ancl can be expected to

..rituzrl concerns are patently


that

o"p"na.nt on 3ultnJ1i

to societ)/" (Bax 1981: 17)'


vary quite markedly from society

Watts's(2003:262)suggestioninresponsetothisglciblemls::.Ti.::useofhisprivate
meta-comment (i'e' open criticism or
torical data that contains enough

understanding

to deduce conclr,rsions abor'rt the


evar*ation) for the reader to be able
Although Bax does not see anything wrong
tirne'
in
of politeness al a certain point
needle
he thinks that it is "rike searching for a
with this kind of approacr-r in general,

inahaystact.,withresearchersbeirrgmoleorlllslefttclchancehits,nottosaythe

reading" (2010)
contingencies of the acciclent of
his
manr-rals as a point of cleparture for
letter-writng
printed
uses
Bax himself
"ritual
the
that
is
found
has
he
what
ietters'
comparative study of early Dutch
ranks
society cotrstrained people of the lor'ver
Dutch
seventeenth-century
ot:der" of
what
than
superiors, and that doing anything less
to use a formal approach to their

was required would have resulted in a serious breach of epistolary etiquette. Bax
compares the nature of early modern epistolary facework to Goffman's (1967) notion of an appropriate mask that is put on during interaction. One of the central pre-

requisites for maintaining smooth relationships and establishing discursive equilibria is the ability to hide one's true feelings, and, hence, Bax claims that early
modern politeness is not only "primarily a device for self-presentation and self-assertion", but that "there is every appearance that earlier on, during the medieval
millennium, minding one's rnanners was also generally moved by 'selfi.sh' reasons" (2010).
Similarly, Held (2010) talks about the social conventionality of ritual politeness
in her study of medieval petitions. She has found that supplications are "legalised
iconic acts" between two unequal communicating partners, one of which is humbling and abasing himself. while the other is being praised. The process of requesting itself consists of various argumentative steps that turn the face'threatening act
into "a face-flattering act". In Held's opinion, there is ncl need to use the term
"negative politeness" at all, because "explicit. performatives, the repetitive overuse of prerogatives, direct expressions, syntactic prolipsy and an accumulated decorunl personoe are necessary visible signs of worthy subjection cln the threshold
of orality to literacy and tiom old to new social settings" (2010).
How does the <lverall conceptualisation and understanding of what we in modern society call (im)politeness then change in the course of time? 'fhis is a question
to which, for example..Iucker (2010) aims to offer an answer in his study on
Vliddle English texts. In his opinion, there is a change from the Anglo-Saxon sense
of obligation, which is derived fronr what we already saw Kohnen (2008a, 2008b)
calling the Christian values of caritas and hwnilitcrs in section 3.3, to the early
rnodern face-induced politeness system" [n order to bridge this gap, medieval society adopled what Jucker calls c:urteisie 'cc.rurteous behaviour', which acted as "a
form of discernment politeness".
Even in later periods, politerress can partly be seen as a synonym for socially
acceptable behaviour (see e"g. Watts 1999)" F'itzmaurice, in her study on eighteenth-century English, calls politeness a term rvhich, although "a keyword with
a meaning and implications that open doors into the mentality of a period", carries along a range of context-dependent connotations (2010). Politeness becomes
over time less associated with the manner in which interaction is conducted, with
the reciprocity of accclmmodative conversation, and with the sense of consideration for one's interlocutor. At the sarne time, politeness rs increasingly connected with "superficial fornis of polite discourse", such as, for example, forms of
ttddress, ritual greetings and salutations. According to Fitzmaurice, politeness
changes from a mode of interaction marked by politic behaviour, which is otheroriented, to a formal style that is more self-oriented.2l She sees politeness and impoliteness as parallel concepts that are juxtaposed by the notiorl of politic discourse.

Politeness 44'l

440

lvlinna Nevala

with politeness' impoliteness' politic


The question of whether we are dealing
raised' anlanguage ur. .urr.t,. and has already
behaviour, discernment or ritual
.ui bJ stuoied in historical material in the first
orher poinr of wherher politener,
section, Archer (2008)' for one' emphasises
place. As could be seen ln the previous
in language to its sociocultural and sohow important it is to relate (im)politeness
I

ciopsychologicalconlext.Ashistoricallinguists,weareverymuchatthemercyof
on
ur, *J can make only "educated guesses"
our clata: as Kasper (2007) reminds
we
20i0)'
Nevala
(see
also
past
the
in
impolite
what was interpretecl as polite and
informants to find out what they were
historical
our
of
heacls
tfre
into
get
cannot
can we do so with oul present-day informthinking a| a certain point in time; nol
background is a great help in itself'
ants. Naturally, knowing the sociohistorical
of historical
more than just guess when the study
and we will be abie to do much
In the near
material'
reliable
clf
via the expnsion
politeness is further diversified
(im)politeness works in historical data
future, educatecl guesses on how
knowledg" on its functions in early interaction'
doubt become

will

no

"rblirh"d

Notes
By the

:r" (1998:

stratification sysmean one's position or rank in the social

not only Bror'vn and Levinson's no18) argues that reievatrce theory covers
an alternative to the
and Meiei's views' as it also offers
tion of politeness, ut also Watts's
pclliteness'
communicate
to
desire
the
by
view that polite behaviour is motivated
(1995: 4) for "concern for the feelings
Holmes
un
zsl
(19g5:
See also Arndr. ancl Janney

by the inreracranrs sho'ld be


sresses the fact that the norms applied
studied in tl-reir historical context'
example' watts
variables work for politeness at all' For
One might also argue whether the
(1989:131,n,3),althoughrecognisingtheexistenceofdifferentdegreesofpowerand
,irtnin politic behaviour rather than within politesratus, claims thert the variables

;lr:jTilro""r,

^
5

By this I mean the fact that Brown and Gilman (1989: 193, 195) repeatediy point out

how "sudden", "dramatic" and "extreme" these changes of feeling are in their material -a characteristic of dramatic dialogue that, in their opinion, leads to "feeling" becoming
more crucial than "interactive intimacy", which in turn prevents them applying the variable of distance, unless it be heavily modified.
r1 As studies on different languages show, these politeness phenomena are by no means restricted to the English ianguage. As, for example, Moreno's (2002) study shows, the
solidarity semantic started to work in the Spanish address system already in the sixteenth century, when it was strongly connected with the concepts of face, honour and
class membership (see also Bentivoglio 2003).
t2 By the terms "written" and "spoken", I mean the difference between data fhat are
composed for the purpose of oral presentation (dramatic dialogue) and that are originally uttered but then written down (court records)"
13 Case 139: Deposition of "Agnes Wheitley [.. ] of Segefield, aged 33", Surtees Socrety
1845,104.
t4 In a similar vein, Fanego argues that the early use of address terms appears to have been
"far from being as automatic and predictabie as Kopytko and others claim" (2005:29:;
see also Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 1995: 547)"
Del Lungo Camiciotti refers here to Rlum-Kulka (1987), rn particular.
1.5
r6 The Corpus o.f Early English Correspondence (CEEC): THYNNE, 1604,32.
17 IVI ctcb

term "social status" I

10

"^ir,

is not only
(2003: 1,6,1,5) suggest that people's use of language
Spencer-Oatey ancl Jiang
also by
but
variables'
factois, such
influenced by immediate contextual
'o-iological
fundameninclude
These
SIPs'
called
principles
underlying sociopragmatic interactionat
obligations SIP
SIps, such as a face SiP' a rights and
tal, univers.r iipr, a-s well as ti,niteJ

th III"iv.57-67

l8 The concept of "intention" in gener:al has been one of the most contested terms in both
current politeness arrd impoliteness research (see e.g. Bousfield and Locher 2008).
19 The Corpus of English Dialogues". Trial of Christopher Layer (1'722).
20 The articles by Bax, Fitzmaurice, Jucker and Nevzria referred to in ttris sectjon will appear in a 2010 volume, which is a compilation of the papers pre.sented in a workshop on
historical (im)politeness at the 4th International Symposium on l-inguistic Politeness,
Budapest, Hungary, in July 2008 (see References).
21 Stein (1994: 8) also talks about how politeness as a concept gradually changed liom the
seventeenth-century social ideal of pragrnatic language behaviour to the eighteenthcentury "polite prescriptivism", which was in general connected with the ideology of
standardisation prevalent at the time (see also Fitzmaurice 1998; Watts 2000 and 2002;
Taavitsainen and Jucker 20i0).

NCSS.

"

3::

ir:T*tl,

(
and Culpeper' Bor-rsfield
ot.', (.tss2)scale of politeness; cLrlpeper 1996)
(1992)'

and Wichmann (2003)

Sell
for the superstrategies of impoliteness, and

and etic
b""tw""n the so-called emic (first-order)
In general, Watts izO:l distingulsh"s

(second-order)viewsonpoliteness,atendencyalsoprevalentrnothercur:rentpoliteness
lu4itt' 2003' and Locher and Watts 2005)"
research (see also
nevertheless a dis"'g'
as connected with politeness' but
9 Thomas ( 1995: 150) sees cleference
politerhan
rarher
familiarity
of
her' cieference is the opposite
'f

:Ili:ffi"""..'o".

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1.

Introduction

Unfortunately, people do not always agree


on what is true, what is good and what
should be done' In the case tlf disagreement,
there nre various options fclr how to
deal with conflict, including violence, negotiations,
legal action, me4iation and,
last but not least, conflict management by discussion,
both in private and in the
public arena' This kin<J of verbal conflict management
comes in many varieties. to
which our everyday vocabulary bears witness w"ith
expressions ]lke di,scussion, clebate, d'ispute, controversyr argLtment, qrtttrrel.
r'hese varieties constitute a family
of forms of comnunication with cornplex relationships
and variecl historical afliliatiotts' 'rhese forms of communication have
long irairion, in different cultures
(e'g. china, India, wesrern Europe; cf"
Hambr;n lolo;coilins 199g; chang 2007:,
Lloyd 20aT' and documents of these traditions
have corne down to us mainly from
the domains of politics, religion, philosophy
ancl the sciences. For western culture,
our knowledge of the history of argumentation
in controversy mainly goes back to
classical antiquity, especially to the early
history of l.gic and dialectics (plato,
Aristotle and their followers), a tradition u..y
ru.t alive in moclern theories of argumentation and infc.rrmal logic.
Looking back on the history of controversies,
we find both long-lasting tradilions' which make.centuries-olcl arguments and
argumentative strategies look q'ite
familiar [o us, and, on the other hand, remarkablJ
cha,rges in rhe practice of c'ntroversy' e'g' in respect to the textual form
of contributions to controversies. present-day complaints about the "agonism'?
of scientific discourse (cf. ,ranne n z0a2)
very much resemble seventeenth-century
complaints abclut the acrimoniousness
and futility of schorarly squabbles (cf.
waqu.t zoo:i. By contrast, rcl'king at
seventeenth-century pamphlets, we have
a strtng f'eeling of historical distance
to_
wards these types of text. As fbr the evolution
of these forms t:f communication, it
is often the advent of new media which
opens up new vistas fclr the conduct of
controversies, e'g' the invention of the printing
p..rr, the introcluction of scholarly
journals at the entJ of the seventeenth
..ntuiy,'or the fresent-rJay use of the Internet' In all these cases we find an interesting
combinriiun of innovation and traditionalism' at least <luring early stages of
the use of the new medium: at least partially' there is olil wjne in new wineskins. 'rhese
-";urt a few topics in 1he history
of controversy fhat c.ulcr interest historicar
pragmaticists.
controversies niake an attractive topic lor
historical pragmatics because polemical communicat.ions fiequently show
a characteristic pragnratic structure,