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A corpus-based approach to (im)politeness metalanguage: A case study on Shakespeare's plays

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Pragmatics
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)6-20
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date18/07/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In their criticisms of traditional theories of politeness, Watts et al. (2005 [1992]) and Eelen (2001) call for first-order approaches to (im)politeness. While their ‘discursive approach’ has faced its own criticisms, one useful strand which has emerged from this research is a focus on how (im)politeness is evaluated and discussed. However, compared to other approaches to (im)politeness, such language has received little attention. Studies on (im)politeness metalanguage also often preselect lexical items for analysis, for instance ‘polite’, ‘rude’, and ‘courtesy’. Likewise, there is still a near vacuum in historical and stylistic aspects of (im)politeness metalanguage. This paper broadly contributes to (im)politeness (meta)pragmatics by establishing a method for inductively locating (im)politeness metalinguistic items in a corpus, specifically employing a corpus of Shakespeare's plays, and in doing so locates a total of 234 (im)politeness metalinguistic forms with a collective total of 4,023 instances in a corpus of 1 million words. This study then identifies semantic patterns in how these terms are used by arranging them into five second-order categories, reflecting on previous (im)politeness literature. Finally, the study briefly considers the potential that this approach has for (im)politeness research, as well as this data in particular for stylistic and historical interests in (im)politeness.