Chapter

The rules of politeness and Latin request formulae

Eleanor Dickey

in Laws and Rules in Indo‐European

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609925
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741579 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609925.003.0017
The rules of politeness and Latin request formulae

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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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This chapter tests the practical usefulness of four theoretical frameworks that have been proposed for the analysis of linguistic politeness: those of Brown and Levinson, Watts, Terkourafi, and Hall. A non-technical explanation of these theories and the arguments normally used for and against each is provided. The theories are then used to analyse a corpus of 661 passage from Cicero’s letters (i.e. all passages in the letters where Cicero uses one of his favourite words for ‘please’, rogo, oro, peto, quaeso, or velim). The analysis indicates that politeness theories can be helpful in understanding even very well-known Latin expressions like these, but at the same time no one theory can be applied as a template on its own, because each has some serious drawbacks. Nevertheless several theories have strengths that allow them, if judicously applied in the context of careful examination of evidence, to enhance our understanding significantly.

Keywords: Latin; Cicero; politeness; please; face; epistolography

Chapter.  7434 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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