Variation through time and text type
The nature of direct and indirect requests in Early Modern Spanish
This paper considers the applicability of modern theories of language to data from pre-modern language varieties. Specifically, I address the extent to which Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper’s (1989) taxonomy of directive head acts is valid for use in descriptions of these speech acts in Early Modern Spanish. In order to address this issue, data from two distinct primary sources was collected: first, a series of familiar letters written in the latter half of the sixteenth century, and second, a collection of short farces widely discussed as representing the popular speech of the time. The results of this study indicate that speakers in the sixteenth century displayed a strong preference for direct request strategies, at odds with conclusions drawn about modern Spanish in the literature. Though the head act taxonomy is found to be useful for analyzing the Early Modern data, I caution that it cannot be assumed that speakers in different periods appraise potential face-threatening acts similarly.
Keywords: requests, mitigation, head act, Early Modern Spanish, politeness, speech acts
Published online: 08 November 2011