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Socially relevant routines of everyday communication

Subproject by Linda Gennies

This project focusses on three aspects of communicative behaviour central for social interaction: (i) forms of address, (ii) greeting formulae and (iii) socially organising speech acts.

(i) The project investigates address pronouns as well as nominal and abstract forms of address. To begin with, the socio-linguistic and pragmatic distribution of different forms of address will be identified within the corpus of multilingual textbooks from the early modern period. Of particular interest are those nominal forms of address that were used in a non-literal way (e.g. Bruder). The focus is also placed on abstract forms of address such as Euer Gnaden, which appeared as innovative forms of address in early modern Europe. They are especially interesting as they can be seen as a starting point for structural change in the address system of European languages. In the late Middle Ages, all of the transregionally significant European cultural and commercial languages used a second person plural pronoun as a polite pronoun. In the 17th century, only the French vous remained as a 2PL polite pronoun, while the address systems in the other relevant European languages had changed. In Italian, the 2PL pronoun was replaced by Lei 3SG.FEM. In German, the initially new form er/sie 3SG was itself replaced by Sie 3PL, in Spanish, the particular form usted superseded the second person plural pronoun.

Within the scope of this subproject, the corpus of textbooks from three centuries will be studied in detail in order to analyse the change of the European address system and the socio-cultural and situational mechanisms and other factors that influenced this change. 

(ii) In the early modern period, religious greetings were gradually replaced by greetings depending on the time of the day (Guten Tag instead of Grüß Gott). This change will also be explored based on the multilingual textbooks. 

(iii) Finally, the project studies frequently recurring speech acts (e.g. requests, apologies, and compliments) in two different ways: First, the different speech acts can be regarded as socially variable and, therefore, their historical dimension will be explored. Second, more abstract behaviour patterns will be extracted from the model dialogues. Starting with basic rules such as spoken blessings before a meal, this project will also analyse more complex and interlaced patterns of ritualised question-answer sequences or other turn types used in sales negotiations.