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English Historical Pragmatics

Andreas H Jucker, Irma Taavitsainen

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Your guide to historical pragmatics in English studies

Historical pragmatics is an emerging branch within linguistics and one of the most versatile fields in the historical study of English. It is placed at the intersection between pragmatics, historical linguistics and neighbouring disciplines like (historical) sociolinguistics. It is at such interfaces where exciting new developments take place.

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1 Historical pragmatics: Communicative patterns of the past

2 Data in historical pragmatics: The widening perspectives of the digital era

3 Excavating usage patterns: Methods in historical pragmatics

4 "Lo, which a greet thyng is affeccioun!": Discourse markers and interjections

5 "For I thou thee, thou Traitor": Terms of address

6 "No one can flatter so prettily as you do": Speech acts

7 "For your curteisie": Forms of politeness and impoliteness

8 The pragmatics of language change: Grammaticalisation and pragmaticalisation

9 "Take a pounde of sugir and halfe a pounde of tendir roses lyues...": Genres and text types

10 "I pray thee friend Humfrey, what is phisicke?": Scientific and medical discourse

11 "By letters from Riga we have advice": Historical news discourse

12 "Fire! Help! Sir Walter has studied till his Head’s on fire": Narrative patterns and historical pragmatics.

About the Author

Andreas H. Jucker is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Zurich. His current research focuses on historical pragmatics, speech act theory, politeness theory and the grammar and history of English. He is editor of the Journal of Historical Pragmatics (with Irma Taavitsainen) and associate editor of the Pragmatics & Beyond New Series (Benjamins).

Irma Taavitsainen is Professor of English Philology at the University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on historical pragmatics, corpus linguistics, and the development of scientific and medical writing. She has published widely on these topics.


This much needed book could not have been written by two more qualified people, and they do not disappoint. Surveying a broad panorama of micro and macro phenomena, they gently guide the reader through historical pragmatics, skilfully negotiating complex theories and illuminating numerous examples. This book lends definition to the field; it will be a landmark in its development.

- Jonathan Culpeper, Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Lancaster University

A powerful demonstration of the pragmatic approach to English from a historical perspective, taking the reader through methodological discussions and multiple case studies, and illustrating the usage of particular analytical tools with additional exercises and suggestions for further study. One of the best features of this textbook is its clarity and comprehensiveness. The discussion is well-signposted throughout, while the original quotes used in chapter titles immediately capture the reader’s attention and give a flavour of each chapter’s content. This textbook will definitely prove popular with students and academics. It is a perfect testimony to the breadth and depth of the field and will definitely inspire both neophytes of historical pragmatics as well as seasoned specialists.

- Joanna Kopaczyk, University of Edinburgh and Adam Mickiewicz, University of Poznań, Journal of Historical Pragmatics

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