Edited by Camille Denizot and Olga Spevak
[Studies in Language Companion Series 190] 2017
► pp. 83–109
Chapter 5. Quapropter, quaeso? ‘Why, for pity’s sake?’
Questions and the pragmatic functions of quaeso, obsecro, and amabo in Plautus
This contribution aims to shed further light on some well-studied deverbal Latin Pragmatic Markers (PMs), that is, procedural elements originally derived from verbs which become frozen in form and acquired new intersubjective meanings. In particular, I will focus on quaeso, obsecro, and amabo ‘please’ in Plautus, which have been widely discussed in the relevant literature above all with regard to their primary function, namely that of politeness markers softening the illocutionary force of orders and requests, and in relation to their sociolinguistic distribution. In this study, I shall focus rather on the less widely studied values developed by quaeso, obsecro, and amabo when used in questions in Plautus. The data show that these markers express a range of meanings which go far beyond politeness and the illocutionary functions of mitigation, coming to convey a variety of personal stances, strengthening of pragmatic force and even (mock) impoliteness, thus realizing a sort of “pragmatic reversal” (in the words of Mazzon 2007).