Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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This paper addresses an issue of diachronic speech act analysis and diachronic politeness research at the same time. Its primary aim is to examine uses of two grammatical constructions based on subjunctive forms of the verb (‘please’) in medieval Catalan, relying on a corpus of texts from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. It is argued that the construction “ (in subjunctive) + indirect object + ” (‘may it please somebody that’) in the beginning was used to perform permission-requesting directives, and later, indirect directives, which goes against Searle’s generalisation about possible ways of performing indirect directives. Occurrences of the construction “ (in subjunctive) + indirect object + infinitive” (‘may it please somebody to do something’), developed later but used with the same function, are also considered, and all of the relevant occurrences are analysed in the framework of Brown and Levinson’s (1987 [1978]) politeness theory. As far as the methodology is concerned, the paper concludes that a highly comparative approach is needed in diachronic speech act analysis – that is, various forms suitable for performing the same type of speech act in an historical period have to be examined together. In accordance with this principle, the findings of this study should be integrated in a larger research project focussing – in addition to constructions with (‘please’) – on uses of constructions involving the verbs meaning ‘think’ and ‘want’ as well, since all of them are assumed to be suitable for performing directives in mediaeval Catalan.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): directives; historical pragmatics; mediaeval Catalan; politeness
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