Historical Politeness Network for Ancient Languages lecture: Federica Iurescia on ‘Impoliteness and Metapragmatics in Latin’

The Historical Politeness Network for Ancient Languages would like to invite you to join us for our virtual lecture series showcasing the latest research on historical politeness in ancient languages (this semester we will cover ancient Egyptian, ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit). All lectures will take place using Zoom.


To register, please email Dr Maria Tsimpiri ([email protected])


Our next virtual lecture is:

Friday 11 June at 10am UK time

Impoliteness and Metapragmatics in Latin by Federica Iurescia (University of Zurich)


In the last years, many contributions in the field of Historical Pragmatics have been devoted to the im/politeness research in ancient cultures and languages. Much work has been done on the specific forms of expressing im/politeness, and a growing attention is being paid to the cultural specificities both diachronically and synchronically. In the case of ancient Rome, there is room for increasing our understanding of what im/politeness meant for a Latin speaker. I have become interested in particular in the metalanguage of impoliteness. As often in this realm of studies, the Latin language has no perfect match for ‘impolite’. It does have, however, some lexical items referring to manifestations of the negative attitude subsumed under the concept of impoliteness, which provide us with a unique entry to the emic evaluations of linguistic behaviour and interactional practices. In this talk I will present some of the evidence we can collect on the perceptions of Latin speakers reflecting about ways of communicating which are deemed negative, unwelcome, aggressive or simply inappropriate. As a case study I will take the commentaries of the grammarian Donatus (4th CE) to the comedies of Terence (2nd BC), and I will focus on which expressions he evaluates as offensive, and why.