Vol. 3 (2014): Letter Writing in Early Modern Culture, 1500-1750
Part Two - Case Studies

The Pragmatics of Sir Thomas Bodley

Gabriella Mazzon
Institut für Anglistik, Universität Innsbruck
Published March 10, 2014
How to Cite
Mazzon, G. (2014). The Pragmatics of Sir Thomas Bodley. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 3, 117-131. https://doi.org/10.13128/JEMS-2279-7149-12162


The publication of the diplomatic correspondence of Sir Thomas Bodley online (Diplomatic Correspondence of Thomas Bodley, 1585 – 1597) offers a fine opportunity to study a text-type that is partly different from either business letters or personal correspondence. These texts lend themselves to be analysed from a sociopragmatic and discourse-analytic point of view, and this will be attempted in the paper by taking a closer look at the management of conflict, the degree of strength and directness of speech acts, and the ways in which social hierarchy is expressed. Several linguistic markers will be considered, in order to ascertain which elements can be seen as typically sensitive indicators in this particular text type, and how they relate to those found in other types of correspondence from the same period, which has been widely studied. In particular, the interplay between ‘diplomatic’ indirectness (also in the modern sense) and direct reinforcement of personal bonds will be investigated; given the need to continuously express the element of personal trust, this type of correspondence seems particularly promising to analyse from this specific angle. Interesting insight can be gained by looking at the performing of specific acts or ‘moves’, for instance at the different levels of strength in directives, or at the linguistic means used to convey degrees of certainty in the reporting of information, both types of acts that figure prominently in these letters.