Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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This paper seeks to explain the development of European politeness as a result of courtly behaviour where “complaisance” played an important role. As traces left in the so-called “language of politeness” of numerous European linguacultures show, mutual “pleasing” determined social performance in hierarchically organised societies by merging aesthetic concepts of form and order with ethical values of benevolence and charity. An analysis of the lexical item (‘to please’) in Early Modern Italian and French documents highlights the existence of six different formulaic usages, characterised by a high consistency in frequency, evolution and diffusion all over Europe. Appearing mainly in connection with interactive moves where will is at stake, -formulae represent co-operative means, which ease social relationships by conditioning and “embellishing” directives with different elements of social . As acts of submission originating in the Medieval , they became integrated over time into the French dogma of “polished” conversation as an elitist “art de plaire” (Faret 1665). From France they spread into the European courts establishing a conception of politeness that has been underestimated in pragmatics so far.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): (language of) politeness; aesthetics; complaisance; courtesy; directives; ethics; social decorum
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