Chapter published in:Late Modern English: Novel encounters
Edited by Merja Kytö and Erik Smitterberg
[Studies in Language Companion Series 214] 2020
► pp. 334–355
“I am desired (…) to desire”
Routines of power in the British Colonial Office correspondence on the Cape Colony (1827–1830)
Historical pragmatic analyses have underlined the discourse dependence and pragmatic sensitivity of speech acts. As a result, researchers’ attention has shifted from form, structure and tokenisation of utterances to interactive frameworks. This paper follows suit and argues that speech acts in historical correspondence – in this paper, the letters of the British Colonial Office on the Cape Colony – bear a close resemblance to speech events, interactional moves or speech actions. It presents a qualitative approach to speech act identification and classification that relies on the routines of power and the notion of macro-speech act. In the process of speech act identification, co-textual features and outcomes (perlocutionary effects) serve as crucial reference points. The findings confirm the significance of the status differentials for an early nineteenth-century specialised discourse domain of institutional correspondence.
Published online: 18 March 2020
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