Article published in:English Historical Linguistics 2006: Selected papers from the fourteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 14), Bergamo, 21–25 August 2006. Volume II: Lexical and Semantic Change
Edited by Richard Dury, Maurizio Gotti and Marina Dossena
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 296] 2008
► pp. 3–29
Politeness in the history of English
Politeness in English has often been seen as a development from a positive politeness culture to a negative politeness culture. Several case studies provide evidence for such a development. A first case study offers an analysis of the use of pronominal terms of address in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and in Shakespeare’s plays. By Shakespeare’s time the pronoun you had increasingly become a marker of deference associated with negative politeness, while thou had become a marker of positive (im)politeness and strong emotions. The development of speech acts such as apologies and directives provide further evidence for an emergent negative politeness culture. However, evidence from Early English correspondence and from the current blurring of the line between private and public life indicates that there are also tendencies towards increased positive politeness, which strongly suggests that these developments are domain and genre specific.
Published online: 09 July 2008
Cited by 3 other publications
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