Springe direkt zu Inhalt

Politeness Crossing Times and Spaces

11.06.2018 - 12.06.2018
“Politeness.” Print on disc, lithograph, hand-colored, 24 cm. 1833, Library of Congress, USA.

“Politeness.” Print on disc, lithograph, hand-colored, 24 cm. 1833, Library of Congress, USA.

International Workshop organised by project C08 “Teaching Early Modern Routines of Everyday Communication within Contexts of Linguistic Diversity” (Head: Prof. Dr. Horst Simon)

In modern-day Humanities, questions of verbal and nonverbal politeness have been explored from many different perspectives. However, the vast majority of existing studies are restricted to the synchronic analysis of relatively stable norms of polite behaviour in historical or modern speech communities, whereas changes in politeness are only rarely looked at.

With our interdisciplinary workshop “Politeness Crossing Times and Spaces” we aim at filling this void by bringing into focus the so far rather neglected dynamic nature of politeness in the pre-modern world, which can be observed on at least two levels:

On the vertical level, norms of politeness are affected by changes in society. We want to examine how different hierarchical structures of pre-modern societies and changes thereof affect the forms and functions of politeness; and how new forms of polite behaviour retroact on a society.
On the horizontal level, different concepts of politeness interact with each other in situations of cultural and linguistic contact. Contact situations not only allow for the simple transfer of patterns from one speech community to another, but also for the emergence of entirely new forms, as transfer processes always carry a certain creative potential in them.

The objective of the workshop is to shed light on these two dimensions of politeness change from an interdisciplinary perspective; we hope to address some of the following questions:


  • What sources are useful for the study of historical politeness? How are these different sources interrelated and how do they interact with each other?
  • Who are the agents establishing and promoting politeness? What are the respective roles of teachers, diplomats, interpreters and travellers? Do authors reflect change and variation – especially in situations of cultural contact? How do they negotiate accommodation processes in cases of conflicting norms? How do they express and substantiate their claims of validity when postulating certain norms?
  • How are claims of (cultural) superiority conveyed and negotiated through politeness? In what way do, e.g., eurocentrism and orientalism already surface in pre-modern times?
  • How do the transmission and dissemination of changing norms throughout society function?
  • What are the actual linguistic properties of politeness that are at stake? What concrete forms are relevant?


Workshop Programme

Monday, 11 June 2018

from 9.30 Arrival
10.00 – 10.15 Opening Remarks
10.15 – 11.00 Francesco Mari (Freie Universität Berlin): The Quest for an Ancient Greek Politeness Manual
Coffee Break  
11.30 – 12.15 Giovanna Alfonzetti (Università degli Studi di Catania): Conversation in Italian galatei: from Della Casa’s Galateo (1558) to today’s dictionaries of manners
12.15 – 13.00 Annick Paternoster (Università della Svizzera italiana): Requests in Nineteenth-Century Italian Conduct Books: on the Resilience of Ancien Regime-Style Deference
Lunch Break  
14.30 – 15.15 Thomas Scharinger (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München): Some remarks on the influence of Italian models on verbal politeness in 16th-century France
15.15 – 16.00 Linda Gennies (Freie Universität Berlin): Politeness Crossing Social and Linguistic Spaces in Early Modern Europe
Coffee Break  
16.30 – 17.15 Birgit Tremml-Werner (Universität Zürich): Japanese and European attitudes towards politeness in the early seventeenth century
 17.15 – 18.00  Horst Simon (Freie Universität Berlin): Re-presenting power and prestige in the 16th century: The Portuguese on their way to India
 19.00   Conference Dinner („Alter Krug“, near U-Bahn Dahlem Dorf)
  Tuesday, 12 June 2018
 9.30 – 10.15 Eleanor Dickey (University of Reading): How does politeness reflect social structure? Explaining diachronic changes in Ancient Greek politeness
10.15 – 11.00  Chiara Ghezzi & Piera Molinelli (Università degli Studi di Bergamo): Genealogical and contact relationships in politeness development: address forms from Latin to Italian
Coffee Break   
 11.30 – 12.15 Vanessa Martins do Monte (Universidade de São Paulo): The new politeness in Portuguese America: the emergence of vossa mercê
 12.15 – 13.00  Andreas H. Jucker (Universität Zürich): Im/politeness in Medieval Britain and the discursive turn in politeness theory
Lunch Break  
14.30 – 15.15 Luke Fleming (Université de Montréal): Restricted honorifics and T-V systems: Societal scale, social institution, and sociolinguistic pattern
15.15 – 16.00 Kim Ridealgh (University of East Anglia): Polite like an Egyptian? The problem of 'politeness' in ancient languages
Coffee Break  
16.30 – 17.15 Dániel Z. Kádár (Hungarian Academy of Sciences & Guangdong University of Foreign Studies): Understanding ‘Historical’ in Politeness Research
17.15 – 18.00  Summary, Final Discussion & Concluding Remarks
18.30  Beer Garden („Maria & Josef“, near S-Bahn Lichterfelde West)


Zeit & Ort

11.06.2018 - 12.06.2018

Sitzungsraum der SFB-Villa, Schwendenerstraße 8, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Weitere Informationen

Linda Gennies: linda.gennies@fu-berlin.de