LINGUIST List 22.2578

Tue Jun 21 2011

Review: Disc Analysis; Hist Ling; Prag: Jucker & Taavitsainen (2010)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

        1.     Joanna Kopaczyk , Historical Pragmatics

Message 1: Historical Pragmatics
Date: 21-Jun-2011
From: Joanna Kopaczyk <>
Subject: Historical Pragmatics
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EDITORS: Jucker, Andreas H.; Irma TaavitsainenTITLE: Historical PragmaticsSERIES TITLE: Handbooks of Pragmatics 8PUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2010

Joanna Kopaczyk, School of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland


This volume dedicated to historical pragmatics is edited by Andreas H. Juckerand Irma Taavitsainen (henceforth J&T). 21 individual contributions, mostly byleading scholars in the field, are arranged into six thematic areas: (II) dataand methodology, (III) diachrony, (IV) pragmaphilology, micropragmatics (V),interactional pragmatics (VI), and selected discourse domains (VII). Thus, thevolume takes the reader from more general theoretical and methodologicalprocesses of language change resulting from pragmatic phenomena, through surveysof Chaucerian and Shakespearean pragmatic research, and form-to-function andfunction-to-form mappings of smaller pragmatic phenomena, to aspects ofinteraction and the domains of discourse most widely studied from a historicalpragmatic perspective. Each chapter can be consulted on its own for an overviewof a given subfield. In the majority of chapters, the authors make links toother contributions so that the reader is guided towards exploring multi-facetedphenomena from various angles. The volume ends with bio-notes about the authors,and useful indexes of subjects, names and languages.

In the Introduction (I), J&T present the field of historical pragmatics and itsrampant expansion within the last 15 years. It is justified to say that this isthe fastest-growing area of historical linguistics and its popularity pointstowards a change in thinking about language. The editors identify key problemareas in their discipline, as well as three main strands: 1) pragmaphilology, 2)diachronic development of language use, and 3) communicative causes of languagechange. Out of these three, the scope of pragmaphilology seems conceptuallyunderdeveloped (see below). The editors also make a distinction between the twomajor traditions in historical pragmatics: Anglo-American (structure-oriented)and Continental (sensitive to social aspects of language use). In the volume,only section III stems from the Anglo-American perspective, as the whole seriesof ''Handbooks of Pragmatics'' stresses the connection between language use andsocial context.

Section II on data and methodology starts with Merja Kytö's useful guide toelectronic resources for historical pragmatics: multi-genre and specializedcorpora, dictionaries and atlases, electronic text collections and editions. Therise of corpus methods is linked with the increase in historical linguisticinquiries. The other chapter in section II (by Jonathan Culpeper) advocatesrecognition of historical sociopragmatics as a useful framework for analyzinglanguage use in context. Its separate status works only in the narrower,Anglo-American view of pragmatics, as the Continental school already includesthe social aspect in its scope. Culpeper draws attention to the crossroadsbetween sociolinguistics and pragmatics: the former is interested in stablevariables and the latter in dynamic ones. He recognizes the need for a solidtheoretical base to interpret phenomena in historical pragmatics.

The third section stems from the linguistically-oriented approach to historicalpragmatics and deals with pragmatic causes of language change. Elizabeth C.Traugott gives a detailed overview of grammaticalization, making reference totwo major approaches to this phenomenon: grammaticalization as reduction ofstructure and grammaticalization as expansion of functions. Major focus isplaced on grammaticalization born out of interaction and subjectivity in view ofsemantic and pragmatic ambiguities. In her chapter, María José López-Cousosketches a wide historical background to the linguistic discussion of(inter)subjectivity, and gives much space to Traugott (pp. 129-143). Sheexplains, however, why (inter)subjectification and grammaticalization should bekept apart. This chapter is a voice in the ongoing debate over the role of selfand subjective interpretations and intentions in language change. López-Cousosuggests quantification methods, rather than only intuitive judgments in thestudy of the effects of (inter)subjectification. The chapter onpragmaticalization and discursization, by Claudia Claridge and Leslie Arnovick,starts with a definition of pragmatics, as this is the realm into whichpragmaticalized elements enter. Their definition is wide and goes beyond the'Anglo-American' approach. Pragmaticalization is not easy to define because itis a relatively fresh concept; practically all of the case studies presented inthis chapter could qualify as grammaticalization in the wide view propagated byTraugott. The other process discussed in this chapter, discursization, isperceived as the second stage of pragmaticalization. The authors claim thatdiscursization should be distinguished as a separate stage, as it goes hand inhand with de-institutionalization and enables pragmatic reinforcement, forinstance, in turning an expression from a simple illocutionary act into acontextually determined act of politeness (e.g. 'bless you!'). Section IIIcloses with a contribution from Brigitte Nerlich on metaphor and metonymy ascontextual phenomena which drive language change. The chapter presents thebackground of historical pragmatics from a philosophical and epistemologicalangle, with special attention paid to metaphor and metonymy as ''pragmaticstrategies'' (p. 194). In Nerlich's view, metaphor and metonymy evolve in''situated pragmatic language use'' (p. 201) in a specific situational andcultural context and work as mechanisms of adapting language to new conditions.

Section IV consists of two chapters on pragmatic aspects in the writings of twoliterary giants: Chaucer (Mari Pakkala-Weckström) and Shakespeare (Ulrich Busseand Beatrix Busse). Both chapters contain overviews of relevant historicalpragmatic studies. Pakkala-Weckström starts with an informative diagrampresenting the coverage of Chaucer's oeuvre by various historical pragmaticians,which shows a large degree of incompatibility among the studies in terms oftheir textual base. The discussion continues with a bio section on Chaucer andhis works. Studies of Chaucer's texts recalled by Pakkala-Weckström concentratemostly on features of literary dialogue and genre characteristics. An importantquestion emerging in this chapter is the reliability of literary texts in termsof language representation, and their applicability for specific researchqueries. In Busse and Busse's chapter on Shakespeare, editorial issues are alsoconsidered. Historical pragmatic studies based on Shakespeare's writings haveapproached language use from multiple angles: speech acts, politeness, discoursemarkers, stylistic devices, pronominal address forms and multifarious vocativeexpressions, their correlation with genre and textual structure, etc. However,as was the case with Chaucerian studies, scholars often select only a fractionof available texts. However, the Shakespeare corpus is complete, so it may servein full as a comprehensive base for investigation, especially in its electronicversion, available soon (Neuhaus forthcoming).

Section V is devoted to micropragmatic phenomena. Brinton concentrates ondiscourse markers and defines them on the basis of formal, semantic andcognitive similarities. The chapter provides a very informative overview ofsynchronic and diachronic studies on discourse markers, concentrating on theprocesses responsible for their emergence and obsolescence (grammaticalization,pragmaticalization, links to negative politeness and generic requirements). Thenext chapter cuts across different genres and chronological periods, and showsthat interjections are pertinent to human linguistic behavior, stable inhistorical terms, and recognizable on the basis of overall human experience.Elke Gehweiler treats interjections as a ''word class'' (p. 315), but at the sametime, notices categorical and functional overlaps. She lists major swearingdomains and presents function-to-form as well as form-to-function studies. Inthe following chapter, Gabriella Mazzon discusses address terms includingpronouns, and nominal and phrasal terms. She starts with a review of researchwith a sociolinguistic bent, and makes reference to the advantages ofcomputerized corpora in view of previous scholarship being based mostly onliterary texts. The author draws attention to elaborate pronominal addresssystems in various languages, and discusses the sources of deferential pronouns,as well as the dissolution of the two-form 2nd person pronominal reference inEnglish. In terms of nominal and phrasal address, attention is paid to theirgrammaticalization and formulaic nature, as well as the situational and socialcontext influencing the selection of a specific expression.

In section VI, the reader enters the realm of interactional pragmatics, whichmay be seen as the core of the discipline. Dawn Archer focuses her attention onthe recent trends in (im)politeness studies transported into historical textsand contexts. The beginning of the chapter tries to capture the nature of speechacts and sketches the history of inquiry into this phenomenon. The rest of thechapter is a systematic and illustrative overview of possible approaches todirectives, commissives and expressives, and of methodologies, includingtechnical issues of manual and automatic corpus extraction. The next chapter, byMinna Nevala, deals both with politeness and impoliteness. The author provides awide overview of critical approaches to the notions of face, power and distance,also from the perspective of historical studies. When it comes to impoliteness,this attack on face eludes systematic classifications because it is notnormative in nature. However, it can be successfully placed on a gradual scaleof verbal aggression gravity (Archer 2008). To continue the topic of linguisticconflict, the reader moves on to the chapter on controversies by Gerd Fritz.This is a largely untouched area which shows how knowledge has been advancedthrough public debate, and raises pragmatic interest in rules followed byparticipants. This valuable inquiry provides comparative material for othersituations of verbal conflict, such as literary dialogues or everyday insults.It also sketches a historical background of the European philosophical traditionof dispute and the technological and social conditions of a given era asconducive to specific forms and topics of verbal argument. The authorconcentrates on public discourse of the 16th -18th centuries, when controversiesflourished in Europe. An interesting distinction is introduced betweendiachronic and evolutionary pragmatics. The former, according to Fritz, wouldcompare forms of a given type of controversy from different periods, while thelatter would emphasize the historical conditions in which a controversy wasvoiced, and how its form was influenced by these conditions. In the nextchapter, Marcel Bax reviews the field of verbal ritual. As ritual escapes easydefinitions, this chapter is clearly multidisciplinary. For instance, Bax pointsto the links between ritualistic behavior and the cognitive and linguisticevolution of humans (as opposed to other species in the animal kingdom, pp. 492,494-495). To capture rituals from a pragmatic point of view, Bax decides tomarry the ''grand theories'' (p. 504) with actual data. He successfully employsJucker and Taavitsainen's ''pragmatic space model'' (pp. 505-506) and moves on tothe records of ritual available to historical linguists. At the end, Bax makesan interesting suggestion that increased politeness sensitivity in the earlymodern period is a kind of rationalized ritual strategy of self-presentation.

The final section of the volume (VII) presents selected discourse domains whichhave so far attracted the most interest in historical pragmatics. Religiousdiscourse, discussed by Thomas Kohnen, is characterized by the existence of aspecial, often multi-genre, authoritative text, such as the Bible in theChristian religion, and by a continuous textual tradition. Perhaps the mostinteresting aspect of religious texts is the correlation of textual functionswith different genres. Kohnen points to earlier oral and ritualistic practicesreflected in performative verbs outside secular discourse domains. Other issuesinclude the use of the vernacular and the impact of religious texts on society.The field of science is presented in a very structured manner by Päivi Pahta andIrma Taavitsainen. They start with ''the pragmatics of scientific writing'' (pp.549-551) and stress the connection between social developments (e.g.vernacularization of science) and their reflection in communication. Three majorissues come to the forefront: discourse forms and practices within a community,genre conventions and their dynamic nature, and rhetorical strategies, such aspersuasion. Even though medicine is the central area of this chapter, itbranches off to other fields like physics, anatomy, chemistry, and even theologyand history. Socio-historical background, including Latin and vernacularliteracy, education and dissemination of knowledge, is also considered. Finally,the authors move to data and research methods. They show how historicalpragmatics can use quantitative and qualitative methods, corpus tools, and alsomethodologies imported from studies on present-day language use. The nextchapter, by Claudia Claridge, provides a thorough overview of news discourse,the goals and themes of the news, the socio-historical circumstances in whichthe news started functioning as a clearly delineated discourse domain, andstrategies for speech presentation, attribution and evaluation. The author doesnot limit herself to newspapers; she also explores other obsolete modes ofcommunicating the news. The author admits that the presentation is selectivebecause this field of discourse has not been studied in its entirety yet. UnlikeClaridge's contribution, the chapter on courtroom discourse by Kathleen L. Dotydeals with only a section of a much larger and well-studied field: legaldiscourse. In this chapter, the emphasis is on the interactive character ofcourtroom discourse: roles of the participants and their interaction captured indifferent genres. The author stresses the importance of the socio-historicalsetting and the character of the judicial system of the period and place.Special character of speech acts and politeness strategies in courtroomdiscourse are illustrated with summaries of several selected papers. The nextwide discourse area is correspondence, explored by Minna Palander-Collin. Animportant theme in this chapter is the application of corpora in the study ofletters and the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods. The chapterfocuses on the social dimension of correspondence. From a larger discourseperspective, there is a section on the technical and material characteristics ofletters, as well as the birth of the postal service. The double nature ofletters - conventional and idiosyncratic at the same time - has also beenaddressed. The last chapter of the volume goes back to literary discourse. Thistime, Susan Fitzmaurice draws a very structured picture of this complexmulti-genre field of discourse. Fitzmaurice writes her chapter with the audienceof the whole volume in mind (p. 681) and shows how literature may provide usefulmaterial for those linguistically, as well as philosophically, inclined towardshistorical pragmatics. As for research topics, micropragmatic and macropragmaticconsiderations are inspected. In the section on research methods, there are twotrends again: the qualitative stylistic and philological approach, andquantitative corpus studies. The author questions the validity of present-daygrammatical categories for searches in historic texts, as well asdecontextualization in corpus searches. In opposition, qualitative studies workon selected representatives of texts, setting them against a richly documentedhistorical, social and cultural milieu. Finally, Fitzmaurice considers all majorpragmatic theoretical frameworks, from implicatures to speech acts, from thehistorical literary discourse perspective.


This bulky collection of chapters, exploring the most important areas inhistorical pragmatics, is a testimony to how this field of linguistics has grownand in which directions it is heading. The contributions provide links withsociolinguistics, stylistics, rhetoric, ethnology, history and other fields. Thediscipline had started off as a study of English historical texts but very soonspread to other languages and cultures. While the widening geographical spandeserves appreciation, a critical remark should nevertheless be made about thehistorically inept classification of Scots as Scottish English. I cannot agreethat the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots is a corpus ''documenting the earlystages of regional varieties of English'' (Kytö's chapter on data, p. 41),placing it in the same box as Irish English or Canadian English. To be precise,this language gets mentioned as 'Scots' (pp. 381 and 395), which has not beenindexed.

In an overview volume, one is forced to maintain balance between theoreticalconsiderations and an illustration of the breadth of the field. Here, thisbalance has been tipped in the direction of an illustrative overview ofhistorical pragmatics at the expense of theory and methodology. Sociohistoricalpragmatics is not the only field which requires a careful analysis from thepoint of view of its interests and methods. A similar chapter would be neededspecifically for pragmaphilology, which does not seem to have a coherentdefinition in the volume. In the Introduction we find a continuation of theoriginal version of Jacobs and Jucker's definition (1995): pragmaphilology is astudy of ''language use in earlier periods'' which pays attention to ''the socialand cultural contexts in which the language is used'' (p. 12). In the firstprogrammatic book on historical pragmatics (Jacobs and Jucker 1995), the sectionon pragmaphilology included contributions which were not limited to literarytexts. In the present volume, one gets the impression that pragmaphilology dealswith literature only, and this application of the label never gets properclarification. Many contributions in the volume (Gehweiler, Archer, Mazzon, andall contributions in Section VII) are saturated with pragmaphilologicalconsiderations even though the framework of pragmaphilology is not mentionedexplicitly.

Parts of the book deal with well-established areas within pragmatics. The areaof law is so multifaceted that the scope of Doty's chapter does not do itjustice, as the author admits herself (p. 622). She does not, however, reallyjustify her narrow perspective. It seems to me that because the language of thecourtroom is clearly interactive, it has become an uncontested representation ofthe whole field of law. It needn't be so. What hasn't been problematized in thevolume, but probably should be, is the emphasis on speech of the past. Writtendiscourse in its own right does not get as much attention. Anotherunderrepresented area of language in use is humor, which could be given aseparate chapter. Historical pragmatics is evolving, which is why some authorsclaim underrepresentation of their topic (Claridge). At the end of everycontribution there is a plea for further research, so hopefully current gaps canbe filled in the future.

Key concepts should be outlined at the beginning of every chapter, just likeClaridge and Arnovick do. The same should be done with 'grammar' in the chapteron grammaticalization, as the key issue in section III is how scholarsunderstand the scope of grammar and the scope of pragmatics.

More control could have been exercised as to the assumed knowledge of historicalpragmatics and linguistics in general. For example, Gehweiler defines apostrophewhile Nerlich doesn't define metaphor.

As befits a state-of-the-art overview, there is sensitivity to new media, newresources and technological advances which change the character of availabledata and research tools. Kytö's chapter on data is entirely devoted toelectronic resources even though the author points to pragmatic questions whichcannot be easily turned into a computer query. This aspect should have beengiven much more attention in a general chapter on data. Kytö's discussion ofcorpora is very comprehensive, but the list of scholarly electronic editions andother sources is a bit selective. For instance, the Canterbury Tales Project(Robinson 2003) is never mentioned, and neither is the Dictionary of the ScotsLanguage, even though Kytö discusses other Scots corpora. Though there is animpressive range of weblinks, some do not work (details can be provided onrequest). I would suggest adding consistent information about free access, assome of the resources mentioned in the chapter require costly subscriptions.Palander-Collin accepts that using manuscripts to produce correspondence corporais ''hardly practicable'' (p. 666), and so does Kytö (p. 50). This sounds,perhaps, slightly defeatist, especially in light of Scottish correspondencecorpora (Meurman-Solin 2007, Dossena and Drury in preparation).

Another aspect to consider in terms of a database is the quality of literarydata employed in historical pragmatics. It should be admitted that, in essence,literary language is an artificial construct and may or may not representfeatures of linguistic usage. Pakkala-Weckström seems to be aware of thisproblem but still adopts a rather traditional solution and decides to rely onthe authoritative Riverside edition of ''The Canterbury Tales'', rather than thestate-of-the-art electronic editions prepared by the Canterbury Tales Project(Robinson 2003). These diplomatic transcripts of all available manuscriptsrepresent the multiple manuscript reality simultaneously, giving a scholar thepossibility to compare versions and to avoid treating an amalgam of editorialchoices as the 'real' text.

Gehweiler mentions ''a chapter on corpus linguistics, this volume'' (p. 333), butthere is no such chapter. Kytö's chapter on data presents corpus tools but shedoes not go into statistical methods at all. Such a synthesis of specificresearch tools and methods would, indeed, be of use, as it could suggestappropriate tools for specific research questions. Since modern linguistic toolsare applied in historical pragmatic studies, some authors are duly concernedwith the applicability of the uniformitarian principle (Archer, Doty).Fitzmaurice makes an important observation that the original interpretation ofspecific linguistic behavior may have been much different than our modernattitudes evoked by the same linguistic choices (p. 695).

All the authors aim at providing a thorough overview of research and the mostimportant publications on a given subtopic of historical pragmatics (extensivereference sections in most chapters). However, the contributions exhibit variousdegrees of detail and abstractness. Some read like extended annotatedbibliographies, especially Doty's chapter on courtroom discourse. Her overviewof literature on legal language comes across as uncritical. It may be claimedthat Mellinkoff's seminal monograph (1963) ''remains a helpful overview of thecharacteristics of legal language, particularly its lexis'' (p. 623), but as a50-year-old work of a non-linguist, it should be approached with caution. Somescholars tend to summarize their own research while disregarding othercontributions to the field. For instance, Traugott discusses grammaticalizationof 'since' (p. 100) on the basis of Traugott and König (1991), while she couldhave mentioned more recent research which develops her ideas (e.g. Molencki(2007)). Concentrating on intersubjectivity and its relation to pragmaticmarkers, López-Couso could have made reference to Culpeper and Kytö (2010),where a whole chapter is devoted to discourse markers in dialogic contexts,illuminating the discussion with new data from the Corpus of English Dialogues.Talking about cultural and social interpretations and about the proposals of auniversal theory of politeness (pp. 421-422), Nevala should have made referenceto Wierzbicka (2003 [1991]) and/or her earlier research on cultural correlationsof politeness strategies.

Setting aside some critical comments, which are bound to appear with regard to avolume of such magnitude, one should agree with the editors that ''the future ofthe discipline looks bright'' (p. 24). This volume is the best testimony to itsvigorous condition.


Archer, Dawn. 2008. ''Verbal aggression and impoliteness: Related orsynonymous?'', in Derek Bousfield and Miriam A. Locher (eds.) Impoliteness inlanguage: Studies in its interplay with power in theory and practice. Berlin /New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 181-208.

Culpeper, Jonathan and Merja Kytö. 2010. Early modern English dialogues. Spokeninteraction as writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dossena, Marina and Richard Drury. (in preparation). A corpus ofnineteenth-century Scottish correspondence. University of Bergamo.<>

Jacobs, Andreas and Andreas H. Jucker. 1995. ''The historical perspective inpragmatics'', in Andreas H. Jucker (ed.), 3-33.

Jucker, Andreas H. (ed.) 1995. Historical pragmatics. Pragmatic developments inthe history of English. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Mellinkoff, David. 1963. The language of the law. Boston: Little, Brown.

Meurman-Solin, Anneli. 2007. Manual to the Corpus of Scottish Correspondence.University of Helsinki. <>

Molencki, Rafał. 2007. ''The evolution of since medieval English'', in: UrsulaLenker and Anneli Meurman-Solin (eds.) Connectives in the history of English.Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 97-113.

Robinson, Peter. 2003. ''The history, discoveries and aims of the CanterburyTales Project'', The Chaucer Review 38:2, 126-139.

Neuhaus, H. Joachim. Forthcoming. Shakespeare database.

Traugott, Elizabeth C. and Ekkehard König. 1991. ''The semantics-pragmatics ofgrammaticalization revisited'', in Elizabeth C. Traugott and Bernd Heine (eds.)Approaches to grammaticalization. Vol.2. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: JohnBenjamins. 189-218.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 2003 [1991]. Cross-cultural pragmatics: The semantics of humaninteraction. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.


Joanna Kopaczyk holds a PhD in English historical linguistics. Her research interests include the history of Scots and historical discourse analysis. She published a monograph on south-western Middle Scots (Peter Lang, 2004). Currently, she is working on a book on textual standardization in the language of Scottish burghs (1380-1560). Her materials consist of Middle Scots administrative and legal discourse and she is using the method of lexical bundles for extracting fixed chunks of discourse for structural and functional interpretation. Her research is supported by a post-doctoral grant from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (N N104 014337).

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