Positive and negative face as descriptive categories in the history of English

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Studies in the history of politeness in English have generally relied on the notions of positive and negative face. While earlier work argued that a general trend from positive politeness to negative politeness can be observed, more recent work has shown that in Old English and in Middle English face concerns were not as important as in Modern English and that, in certain contexts, there are also opposing tendencies from negative to positive politeness. In this paper, I focus in more detail on the notions of positive and negative face and follow up earlier suggestions that for negative face a clear distinction must be made between deference politeness and non-imposition politeness. On this basis, I assess the usefulness of the notions of positive and negative face for the development of politeness in the history of English.


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