Insults: Introduction

In the following section we will work with one special field of pragmatics: politeness and insults. The special case of insults shows clearly that the speakerís meaning depends on more than just on the words s/he uses. It depends on the linguistic, physical and cultural context whether an utterance is interpreted by the hearer as an insult or not.

So politeness and insults can clearly by counted to the study of pragmatics, as they are about how we recognize what is meant when it isnít actually said or written. It is an matter of interpretation!!

When you insult another person you call in question her/his abilities, worth, or social status. And just as values and status in society change over time, so do insults. What we might regard as an insulting expression today might not have been regarded as one in Early Modern English or the other way around. That is why here, we take an interest in the history of insults in the English language, with an emphasize on the Early Modern Period.

We will look at the historical background of this period and we will see that just like Elizabethans took great delight with language they also had a great variety of how to insult other people.

The lessons on deixis and address pronouns constitute helpful background knowledge for this lesson.