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Annick Paternoster


Stylistics of literary dialogue. The pragmatics of politeness and impoliteness. Historical pragmatics. Metapragmatics in relation to conduct and etiquette manuals.

I have studied Romance Philology at the University of Antwerp, where I obtained a grant (1990-1994) from the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) to conduct a PhD in Romance Linguistics and Literature, on 16th Century Italian theoretical dialogue. I lectured Terminology and Translation at the University of Leuven Campus Antwerp (formerly Katholieke Vlaamse Hogeschool). My collaboration with the Istituto di Studi italiani dates from its foundation in 2007.

I am interested in the linguistic make-up of speech-like dialogues within three genres: literary dialogue of the Renaissance (Castiglione, Guazzo), 16th and 18th Century theatre (Ariosto, Bibbiena, Aretino, Goldoni) and 19th Century novel (Manzoni, Collodi). I pursue a distinctly interdisciplinary research agenda and my work belongs to the field of literary stylistics, which uses the methodology promoted by linguistics and especially the pragmatics of politeness and impoliteness and historical pragmatics. Past uses of (im)politeness are studied in close connection with the metadiscourse on (im-)politeness of that historical period, using a wide variety of prescriptive sources such as conduct literature, rhetorical treatises, school manuals, children's literature, etc. These texts are interesting in that they are historical expressions of metapragmatic awareness: they explicitly reflect on the norms that are guiding the ongoing self-monitoring of 'polite' communication.

From 2014 to 2017, I have been the Senior Researcher of the research project "The reasons for politeness. The birth of contemporary politeness in the behavioural treatises in 19th century Italy", (directors Carlo Ossola and Andrea Rocci), financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Together with Francesca Saltamacchia, we have developed the Corpus of Nineteenth-Century Italian Conduct Books (CGIO), for which we have digitalised the 50 most popular conduct and etiquette books.

In 2020 I will present a talk at the International conference LISCORT, "Politeness between cognition and culture: from Latin to Italian and Spanish", University of Bergamo, 27-28 May. Together with Gudrun Held (University of Salzburg) e Daniel Kadar (Dalian University of Foreign Languages, China, and Hungarian Academy of Sciences) I am preparing a double Special Issue of "The Journal of Historical Pragmatics", on Politeness in Historical Europe.

Recent Publications

- 2020. Book review of Perifrasi del concetto di fame. La lingua segreta dei prigionieri italiani nella Grande guerra [Circumlocutions of the Concept of Hunger. The Secret Language of the Italian Prisoners in the Great War]. Leo Spitzer, translated by Silvia Albesano. In Claudia Caffi (ed.), Il Saggiatore, Milan, 2019, original edition 1921, 624 pp. ISBN 9788842825555, Eur 42,00 (paperback). Journal of Pragmatics, 157, pp. 142-144.

- Annick Paternoster e Susan Fitzmaurice (eds), Politeness in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Amsterdam-Philadelphia, John Benjamins (Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 229), 2019. Click here.

- Roma beffata: scortesia e divertimento nella Cortigiana 1525 di Pietro Aretino, in Roma-amoR. Archeologia letteraria e visiva in sei saggi, ed. by Walter Geerts, Roma, Bulzoni, 2019, pp. 19-51. Click here

- From requesting to alms-seeking. The politeness formula 'fare la carità di' in nineteenth-century Italy, in Doing things with words across time: Snapshots of communicative practices of and from the past, ed. by Sara Gesuato, Marina Dossena e Daniela Cesiri, Numero speciale di ”Lingue e Linguaggi” 2019 (31), 35-65. Click here.

- 2019. “Emotive Figures as ‘Shown’ Emotion in Italian Post-Unification Conduct Books (1860-1900)”. In: Rhetoric and Language: Emotions and Style in Argumentative Discourse, ed. by Chiara Pollaroli, Sara Greco, Steve Oswald, Johanna Miecznikowski-Fuenfschilling and Andrea Rocci. Special issue of Informal Logic 39 (4): 433-463. Click here

In press:

- Women on Books for Women: Reading Lists in Turn-of-the-Century Etiquette Books, in Lettrici italiane tra arte e letteratura. Dall'Ottocento al modernismo, ed. by Giovanna Capitelli and Olivia Santovetti, Roma, Campisano.

- ‘Castiglione, Baldassare’, in Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. by Marco Sgarbi. Heidelberg: Springer.

- “Richieste e consigli in quattro galatei post-unitari, il caso dell’imperativo”. In Pragmatica storica dell'italiano. Modelli e usi comunicativi del passato. Atti del XIII Convegno ASLI-  Associazione per la Storia della Lingua Italiana. (Catania, 29-31 ottobre 2018), ed. by Gabriella Alfieri, Giovanna Alfonzetti, Daria Motta, and Rosaria Sardo, Milano, Franco Cesati.

Media contact

I curated, together with Francesca Saltamacchia (ISI) and Luca Saltini (Biblioteca cantonale Lugano), the exhibition “Costumi soavi, dolci maniere”. Galatei e manuali d’etichetta nel Ticino dell’Ottocento, Biblioteca cantonale of Lugano, from the 20th of November 2018 to the 12th of January 2019. The exhibition, which is funded by the Pica Alfieri Foundation, Lugano, was accompanied by a catalogue and an anthology of etiquette books.