Pragmatics, sociopragmatics, and politeness research in Hungarian historical linguistics

This paper gives a brief overview of how and after what antecedents historical pragmatics first appeared in Hungarian historical linguistics. The author concludes that although the multifariousness of approaches in historical pragmatics, despite the relatively narrow scope of relevant research, is present in this country, there are parts of the discipline that have scarcely, or not at all, been studied in Hungary so far. Two of these, historical sociopragmatics and the historical (im)politeness research, are discussed in detail. Finally, in relation to the ‘multidisciplinary’ issue of “How does a witch start up?”, the author proposes that more profound and more comprehensive knowledge could be attained if the various areas of historical pragmatics and neighbouring disciplines were more closely interlinked than they are today and were to build on one another’s results to a larger extent.

Keywords: history of language use, Middle Hungarian, Modern Hungarian, historical sociopragmatics, historical (im)politeness research, history of Hungarian.

Sárosi Zsófia
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem


Documents of witchcraft trials as community and identity forming discourse

This paper presents a historical pragmatic analysis of the documents of three witchcraft trials of the early eighteenth century in Borsod County (Hungary). In particular, the author investigates the prosecutor’s own utterances and his interpretation of the witnesses’ testimonies in documents of witchcraft trials as specimens of community and identity forming discourse to see how the prosecutor creates ‘witchcraft’ as a community and ‘witch’ as the culprits’ identity. The paper applies a socio-cognitive model of discursive community and identity formation in analysing the documents of witchcraft trials under discussion

Keywords: witchcraft trial, cognitive pragmatics, sociolinguistic theory of language use, community, identity.

Petykó Márton
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem


The speech act of requesting in Middle Hungarian missives written by noblemen and commoners

This paper studies the speech act of requesting in personal letters written in Hungary in the 16th to 18th centuries. The issue is studied in a historical sociopragmatic framework. The aim of the paper is to point out to what extent the actual implementation of the speech act of requesting depends, in the written communication of the two social groups under study (peerage and commoners), on expectations that can be formulated as “rules” of the given period, and what social, sociocultural and pragmatic factors have a role in shaping those expectations.

Keywords: historical sociopragmatics, missives, speech act of requesting.

Krepsz Valéria
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem


From resentment to insult
The pragmatics of reproof in Middle Hungarian personal letters

The speech acts of resentment, reproof and insult are analysed in this paper in a historical sociopragmatic framework, one that has only been employed to a slight extent so far in the literature in this country. The source material is taken from personal letters coming from the Middle Hungarian period. The author proceeds “from function towards form”, that is, starting from pragmatic functions and going towards exploring the linguistic means of expressing resentment, distinguishing the speech acts of resentment, reproof, and insult from one another on the basis of the speaker’s inferable intention, but still exploring them together. It is also discussed how relationships of power and subservience are construed on the basis of the individual utterances.

Keywords: historical sociopragmatics, Middle Hungarian, resentment, reproof, insult, speaker’s intention, speech acts, construal of power.

Mohay Zsuzsanna
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem


The notion of linguistic politeness in Magyar Nyelvor in the age of Dualism

This paper attempts to present the conception of politeness as it appears on the pages of the Hungarian linguistics journal Magyar Nyelvor in the age of the Dual Monarchy of Austria and Hungary (1867–1918), on the basis of a corpus consisting of 59 meta-politeness texts. The author concludes that the notion of politeness under discussion – whose central issue is not “what is politeness?” but rather “what is linguistically appropriate politeness?” – is jointly determined by a puristic attitude to language and linguistic nationalism, characteristic of the journal at the time, as well as the late romantic social attitude idealising “the people”.

Keywords: historical (im)politeness research, conception of politeness, norm setting group, Magyar Nyelvor.

Németh Luca Anna
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem


The syntax and semantics of the sentence adverbial valószínuleg, with some additional contrastive observations

This paper studies the use of the sentence adverbial valószínuleg ‘probably’, primarily on the basis of corpus data. Its meaning is determined by a substitution test performed on examples taken from the corpus. It is found out which other sentence adverbials valószínuleg can be replaced by without creating a conflict between the utterance and its context. Possible word order arrangements are also studied with similar methods. Given that the meaning of valószínuleg is somewhere in the boundary area between epistemic modality and evidentiality, this study may serve as a contribution on general issues in the research on modality and on the syntactic properties of sentence adverbials. The description of the pertaining Hungarian facts is complemented by a brief Hungarian–German contrastive survey, and by further observations concerning sentence adverbials in other European languages.

Keywords: sentence adverbials, modality, word order, pragmatics, contrastive linguistics.

Péteri Attila
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem