Historical pragmatics

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Historical pragmatics is the study of language use (especially in spoken language) in its historical dimension.

State of the art

Since the late 1970s, historical linguists have discovered their growing interest in pragmatic questions—first in German, then in Romance linguistics. Especially thanks to Andreas Jucker this field has also been attracting more and more colleagues from English linguistics over the past ten years.[1] Meanwhile there is also a Journal of Historical Pragmatics, which is edited by Andreas Jucker and Irma Taavitsainen.


Historical pragmatics has to rely exclusively on written corpora. This leads to the question how can we find out about the ways people talked to each other in medieval and early modern times? The difficulty of unmasking spoken language in earlier periods has been discussed several times; for medieval times there are practically no reflexes of or on spoken language, and a majority of studies on historical pragmatics do not delve into text prior to the 17th century.[2]

See also


  1. Cf. especially Jucker 1995 and Jucker/Fritz/Lebsanft 1999a for an overview on the development of this discipline.
  2. Cf., e.g, the overviews in Jucker et al. 1999b and Jucker 2000.


  • Jucker, Andreas H. (1995), Historical Pragmatics: Pragmatic Developments in the History of English, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.
  • Jucker, Andreas H./Fritz, Gerd/Lebsanft, Franz (eds.) (1999a), Historical Dialogue Analysis, Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Jucker, Andreas H./Fritz, Gerd/Lebsanft, Franz (1999b), “Historical Dialogue Analysis: Roots and Traditions in the Study of the Romance Languages, German and English”, in: Jucker/Fritz/Lebsanft 1999a (eds.), 1-33.
  • Jucker, Andreas H. (2000), “English Historical Pragmatics: Problems of Data and Methodology”, in: di Martino, Gabriella / Lima, Maria (eds.), English Diachronic Pragmatics, 17-55. Napoli: CUEN.

External links