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Laws and Rules in Indo‐European$
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Philomen Probert and Andreas Willi

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609925

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609925.001.0001

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The rules of politeness and Latin request formulae

The rules of politeness and Latin request formulae

(p.313) 17 The rules of politeness and Latin request formulae
Laws and Rules in Indo‐European

Eleanor Dickey

Oxford University Press

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

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