The Medieval Life of Language
The Medieval Life of Language
Grammar and Pragmatics from Bacon to Kempe
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Introduction: Where is Medieval Pragmatics?

1 Medieval Pragmatics: Philosophical and Grammatical Contexts
Three Terms and a Theory
Roger Bacon’s Semiotics and Pragmatics
Peter (of) John Olivi: Pragmatics and the Will to Speak

2 Interjections: Does Affect have Grammar?

3 Allas Context
Allas: A Case for Context

4 Alisoun’s Giggle, or the Miller Does Pragmatics
Does a Giggle Mean?
Impoliteness, Hedging, and Textual Pragmatics
Polysemy, Bullseyes, Misfires, or How Narrative Escapes Intention
Centrifugal Narrative Contracts

5 How Heretics Talk, According to Bernard Gui and William Thorpe
Pragmatic Talk, Pragmatic Action
Bernard Gui’s Conversation Analysis and Institutional Discourse
William Thorpe’s Relationship Pragmatics

6 Margery Kempe’s Strategic Vague Language
Cooperate or Else
Vaguing Pragmatics
Kempe Comes to the Archbishop
Kempe Tells a Tale

One More Thing

Reviews and Features

“[...] Amsler’s book offers a persuasive demonstration not only of the existence of a medieval pragmatics avant la lettre but also of the fresh analyses of familiar medieval texts that the terminology of modern pragmatics can facilitate.”
- Rory G. Critten, Anglia, Vol. 140, Iss. 3-4

"[...] an interesting collection of case-studies under an over-arching thematic framework of Bakhtinian dialogism and pragmatics. [...] this is a hugely stimulating volume and I found myself constantly thinking of examples from within my own field which would benefit from these types of analysis."
- Paul Russell, Language & History, Vol. 65, Iss. 2
"the book’s overall achievement... is to develop out of a winningly clear and detailed analysis of medieval linguistic thought a well-stocked toolkit for prising out the “pragmatic thinking” (Amsler’s apt phrase) embedded in literature, testimony, and life-writing"
Christopher Cannon, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, volume 98, number 2

Mark Amsler

The Medieval Life of Language

Grammar and Pragmatics from Bacon to Kempe

The Medieval Life of Language: Grammar and Pragmatics from Bacon to Kempe explores the complex history of medieval pragmatic theory and ideas and metapragmatic awareness across social discourses. Pragmatic thinking about language and communication is revealed in grammar, semiotics, philosophy, and literature. Part historical reconstruction, part social history, part language theory, Amsler supplements the usual materials for the history of medieval linguistics and discusses the pragmatic implications of grammatical treatises on the interjection, Bacon’s sign theory, logic texts, Chaucer’s poetry, inquisitors’ accounts of heretic speech, and life-writing by William Thorpe and Margery Kempe. Medieval and contemporary pragmatic theory are contrasted in terms of their philosophical and linguistic orientations. Aspects of medieval pragmatic theory and practice, especially polysemy, equivocation, affective speech, and recontextualization, show how pragmatic discourse informed social controversies and attitudes toward sincere, vague, and heretical speech. Relying on Bakhtinian dialogism, critical discourse analysis, and conversation analysis, Amsler situates a key period in the history of linguistics within broader social and discursive fields of practice.

Mark Amsler

Mark Amsler has taught medieval and comparative literature, linguistics, and writing at universities in the US and New Zealand. He is author of Etymology and Grammatical Discourse, Affective Literacies, and numerous essays on medieval literature, history of linguistics, English linguistics, and critical theory.