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Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik

A Quarterly of Language, Literature and Culture

[Journal of English and American Studies]

Ed. by Butter, Michael / Eckstein, Lars / Frenk, Joachim / Georgi-Findlay, Brigitte / Herbst, Thomas / Korte, Barbara / Leypoldt, Günter / Reinfandt, Christoph / Stefanowitsch, Anatol

CiteScore 2017: 0.07

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.123
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.323

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Volume 65, Issue 3


Non-Canonical Speech Acts in the History of English

Thomas Kohnen
Published Online: 2017-09-02 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zaa-2017-0030


From a pragmatic perspective, speech acts can be seen as non-canonical if they reflect perceptions of politeness and face that differ from an accepted norm. This paper traces the canonical or non-canonical status of boasting and apologising in Anglo-Saxon society. The data suggest that boasting developed from a fairly canonical to a more or less non-canonical speech act, depending on the relative influence that Germanic or Christian values had on Anglo-Saxon society. Apologising, on the other hand, was most likely non-canonical in the Anglo-Saxon warrior society since it appears to be incommensurable to the spirit of Germanic heroes. In the context of spreading Christianity, however, acts of penitence (which are here seen as ‘pre-apologies’) are increasingly advocated as canonical behaviour. Thus, (pre)-apologising (or showing penitence) was on its way from a non-canonical to a canonical status. While the exact development of these two speech acts after Old English has still to be traced in more detail, this article shows that it is the underlying set of ideals and values associated with a society (in this case Germanic self-assertion and retribution and Christian humilitas) that shape the canonical and non-canonical status of expressive speech-acts.

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About the article

Published Online: 2017-09-02

Published in Print: 2017-09-26

Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Volume 65, Issue 3, Pages 303–318, ISSN (Online) 2196-4726, ISSN (Print) 0044-2305, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zaa-2017-0030.

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