Cicero's Letters and Linguistic Politeness
This chapter discusses the social context of letter-writing during the Late Roman Republic, especially among the aristocracy and its concern with social manners. It also examines recent sociolinguistic theories of politeness and facework (especially those of Erving Goffman and Brown and Levinson) and sets out the methodology to be applied to the letters of Cicero in the following chapters. In particular it identifies and defines three types of politeness regularly used in his correspondence: the politeness of respect, affiliative politeness, and redressive politeness. It is suggested that these forms of politeness derive in part from the Roman aristocrat's preoccupation with personal status (dignitas) and his need to form temporary political alliances with ambitious rivals. The relevance of these strategies of politeness to the correspondence of Pliny the Younger and Fronto is also addressed.
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