Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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This paper invites the reader to revisit the accused individuals’ response strategies in the Salem witchcraft trials from the perspective of pragmatic politeness. However, politeness, as used in this paper, refers to politeness to self, for the sake of one’s face — a concept that is different from, yet not incompatible with, that of Brown and Levinson (1987). The paper argues that it is more realistic to examine the trials from this perspective because the accused’s responses were in part driven by “what they thought others thought of them”, which is part of their “face”. As many as nineteen sub-strategies of self-politeness were found to be in operation. Such self-politeness strategies were critical in these trials because they helped the accused to achieve two goals: first, they could defend themselves, and, second, at the same time that the responses might have led them to being acquitted or to a partial and more lenient punishment (although it could not be guaranteed that the responses would work to a satisfactory end), the accused were able to enhance or restore, to a certain degree, their tarnished public image.


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