(Im)politeness and power in the Early Modern English courtroom (1560 to 1639)

Csulich, Gabriela (2022) (Im)politeness and power in the Early Modern English courtroom (1560 to 1639). Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Abstract

The data-based study focuses on power and (im)polite language use in the historical courtroom of the late Elizabethan and early Stuart times (1560 and 1639). The study’s aim is to investigate the influence of non-linguistic features (social status, rank, age) on word choice and (im)politeness strategies regarding terms of address and offensive language during trial proceedings. The focus lies on the different types of trials (ordinary criminal and high treason trials), their different procedures, namely political show trials as opposed to crimes against persons/property, and on their different public perceptions. In the EModE period, social status played an essential role in the use of language in daily life, whereas society was governed by a strict social code that defined socially accepted behaviour based on honour, reputation, and courtesy. However, these rules, which were associated with a certain socially expected behaviour, did not fully apply during trials. In these situations, the courtroom functioned as a microcosm with its own linguistic rules such as institutionally-required formality, asymmetrical power positions, and preassigned roles as defendants, members of the prosecution counsel, or judges. Due to their frequent verbal interaction during the trial, the thesis focuses on the analysis of the verbal behaviour of these three groups of speakers in order to investigate (im)politeness strategies in the historical courtroom.

The study’s approach advocates that an analysis of language use without considering the non-linguistic context (historical-political background, gender, age, social status, etc.) is not sufficient to explain the choice of words and verbal behaviour of the trial participants in the EModE courtroom. In the present study, the analysis of the non-linguistic context is related to that of linguistic elements generally used to express politeness such as terms of address, or impoliteness such as abusive terms and epithets. Moreover, the thesis argues that nouns closely connected to the trial proceedings (evidence, proof, etc.) are used differently by the trial participants due to the roles preassigned to them and the asymmetrical power positions in the EModE courtroom.

The data are drawn from the first two trial sections of the extended version of the Sociopragmatic Corpus, which comprises trial records from the years 1560 to 1639. This is possible for the first time due to the sociopragmatic annotation and expansion of subsections 1 and 2 of the SPC with trial records from published and unpublished sources. As a result, the present study has access to new source material to examine the verbal interactions of the trial participants in relation to (im)politeness strategies. Furthermore, the thesis, which is situated in the fields of (historical) pragmatics and sociopragmatics, analyses the data using pragmatic analysis, models of(im)politeness, and concepts regarding power and solidarity. The study’s novel approach explores the political circumstances of the EModE period and allows conclusion to be drawn between the connections of social ranks, legal procedures, and political settings. The thesis proposes to examine the use of language in the historical courtroom in the contexts of historical events and political developments outside the courtroom. Consequently, the present study broadens the perspective on EModE trial proceedings in general and the influence of social status on (im)politeness strategies in particular.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Dates:
DateEvent
26 February 2021Submitted
18 January 2022Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: politeness; impoliteness; historical pragmatics; Early Modern English courtroom; historical courtroom (1560-1639); Socio-Pragmatic Corpus (SPC); A Corpus of English Dialogues 1560-1760 (CED); social status; high treason trials
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-02 - English language
CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > School of English
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2022 11:58
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2022 11:58
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13441

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