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Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters$
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Jon Hall

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195329063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329063.001.0001

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Cicero's Letters and Linguistic Politeness

(p.3) Introduction
Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters

Jon Hall (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the social context of letter-writing during the Late Roman Republic, especially among the aristocracy and its concern with social manners. It also examines recent sociolinguistic theories of politeness and facework (especially those of Erving Goffman and Brown and Levinson) and sets out the methodology to be applied to the letters of Cicero in the following chapters. In particular it identifies and defines three types of politeness regularly used in his correspondence: the politeness of respect, affiliative politeness, and redressive politeness. It is suggested that these forms of politeness derive in part from the Roman aristocrat's preoccupation with personal status (dignitas) and his need to form temporary political alliances with ambitious rivals. The relevance of these strategies of politeness to the correspondence of Pliny the Younger and Fronto is also addressed.

Keywords:   Cicero, Pliny, Fronto, politeness theory, social manners, facework, Brown and Levinson, Erving Goffman, dignitas

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