Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Pragmatics of Direct Address in the Iliad: A Study in Linguistic Politeness
by Brown, H. Paul, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2003, 200; 10834959
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this paper will be to examine, in the text of Homer’s Iliad, some of the pragmatic and sociolinguistic factors in the choice of form of address (epithet). Specifically I will look at these in light of the Parry-Lord theory of oral composition and its claims of ‘economy of form.’ The results of this limited examination have important implications for the viability of such methods and for our understanding of oral, traditional literature.

Milman Parry, as is well known, demonstrated that the choice of appellation for any character, between the given-name (e.g., ’Αγαμέμνων) and the patronymic (e.g., ’Ατρεΐδης) was a decision based on metrical considerations alone, and importantly, not on semantic ones. The two terms cannot simply be substituted for the other without changing the meter of the whole line. The choice between the two is, according to Parry, driven by metrical necessity alone and hence any possible distinction of meaning is automatically bleached. The two names mean the same thing (i.e., Agamemnon).

In this study I will look specifically at the use types of address within the narrative frame of the Iliad, in light of two potentially contributing factors. From a sociolinguistic standpoint, I will show that the distribution of these forms of address across the whole set of speakers is constrained by the relative social standing of the speaker in respect to the addressee. I will then give evidence for how pragmatic factors as well condition the appearance of one form of address over another.

The evidence in this paper, then, will show that both sociolinguistic factors such as degree of social distance and relative position within the social hierarchy combine with specific situationally defined pragmatic factors to place constraints on the appropriateness of competing forms of address, forms whose distribution was earlier ascribable to metrical constraints alone. In other words, forms of address are effected by important matters of social hierarchy a nd the practical movement of the plot. Thus in line A.7 of the Iliad: ’Ατρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος ’Αχιλλεύς, Homer offers us a contest between Agamemnon, the holder of title and its concomitant privileged position, a man whose titles alone define him and the untitled but divinely defined and, importantly, named Akhilleus. It will be as much a contest between office and δῖος as it will be between individuals.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tracy, Stephen
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Greek and Latin
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ancient languages
Keywords: Address, Ancient greek, Homer, Iliad, Politeness theory, Pragmatics
Publication Number: 10834959
ISBN: 978-0-355-94801-1
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