Historical speech act analysis

Sub-project by Tanja Ackermann

Historical pragmatics is often faced with the problem that methods from synchronic, theoretical pragmatics (introspection, manipulation of linguistic makers, etc.) cannot be used for corpus-based studies. Furthermore, specific cultural knowledge is needed to work with the subtle differentiation of pragmatic parameters. Against the backdrop of this challenge, this sub-project looks into the possibilities and limits of a methodologically savvy analysis of historical speech acts. One focus lies on an analysis of direct and indirect (conventionalised) speech acts and the illocutionary indicators helping to identify them. The interaction between sentence type, sentence mood, and illocution will be examined as well. Besides studying the individual periods synchronically, the project will also analyse selected speech acts from a diachronic perspective. This project also explores to which extent speakers’ expectations regarding conventionalised politeness changed over time. Varying forms and functions of speech acts found in the model dialogues can therefore be seen as an indicator of this change. As the consistency of the textbooks facilitates a portrayal of the diachronic evolution of pragmatic markers (e.g. use of the conjunctive mood by indirect speech acts as a politeness strategy, such as Könntest du mir das Salz reichen?), the investigation of these textbooks in particular is promising.