Modals, Speech Acts and (Im)Politeness: Interactions in Shakespeare’s Plays

ABSTRACT

This paper accounts for how modals are interrelated with speech acts and (im)politeness, to offer a new perspective to the interactions in Shakespeare’s plays.

A variety of strategies to save or attack the hearer’s positive or negative face are taken into account within the frameworks of Brown & Levinson (1987) and Culpeper (1996), and the interplay between these strategies is observed in relation to the modals. Furthermore, this study analyses how speech acts performed with the aid of modals are associated with (im)politeness strategies, based on the inventory of speech acts proposed by Nakayasu (2009).

It has been shown that there are more strategies to save or attack the hearer’s positive face in Shakespeare which are employed with the use of modals. The analysis reinforces the proposal by Kopytko (1993, 1995) that social interactions in Shakespeare’s time were positive politenessoriented, going further to extend the analysis to impoliteness, and suggests the interrelated nature of modality, speech acts and (im)politeness.

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