Conflicts in early modern Scottish letters and law-courts

Leitner, Magdalena (2015) Conflicts in early modern Scottish letters and law-courts. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Scottish letters and court-records from the late 16th and early 17th centuries give access to a rich variety of conflicts, ranging from international disputes to everyday spats. This thesis investigates verbal offences reported by correspondents or recorded as legal evidence. Current models of (im)politeness (Culpeper, 2011a, Spencer-Oatey, e.g. 2005), which have rarely been tested on historical data, are synthesized with insights from historical pragmatics. The aims are to create qualitative reconstructions of how participants communicated their period- and situation-specific understandings of verbal offences, and how their expressed perceptions were shaped by private and public dimensions of different contexts. This thesis thus addresses three comparatively understudied aspects of (im)politeness research: historical impoliteness, Scottish (im)politeness, and the examination of private-public aspects of social interactions. Regarding the third point, a multi-dimensional framework is developed for systematic descriptions of private-public dimensions of conflict-situations, remodelling an existing pragmatic approach to news discourse (Landert and Jucker, 2011). Letters are drawn from the Breadalbane Collection, 1548-1583 (Dawson, 2004/2007) and James VI’s correspondence. Court-records are selected from editions of Justice Court papers and Kirk Session minutes.

Case studies reveal that the vocabulary and discursive structure of conflict-narratives in letters is largely distinct from reported offences in court-records. Differences are presumably influenced by the genres’ contrasting contextual functions of more private versus more public conflict-settlement. However, the language of conflict-letters and court-records also shows shared moral and religious dimensions. Furthermore, verbal offences in the investigated letters and lawsuits refer primarily to collective identity-aspects of group-membership and social roles, while purely individual qualities appear to have been marginal. The perceived gravity of offence could be intensified by participants’ notions of private and public in multiple ways. Concerning comparisons within genres, the Scottish king’s epistolary language in conflicts shows similarities to that of Scottish upper-rank correspondents; nevertheless, it also has some distinct features reflecting James VI’s understanding of his royal status. Criminal and ecclesiastical court-records had largely different, yet semantically related, inventories of verbal offence terms.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Historical (im)politeness, historical pragmatics, correspondence, court-records, post-Reformation Scotland
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PF West Germanic
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy J.
Date of Award: 2015
Embargo Date: 31 November 2019
Depositing User: Ms Magdalena Leitner
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6349
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 May 2015 15:44
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2019 15:32

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