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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 hold a Ph.D. in Romance Linguistics and Literature from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, where I subsequently lectured Terminology and Translation at the University of Leuven Campus Antwerp (formerly Katholieke Vlaamse Hogeschool). I have lectured at the Istituto di Studi italiani since its foundation in 2007. Between 2014 and 2019 I was a collaborator of the research project "The Reasons for Politeness", no. 153031. For a summary of the project and the output data, click here.


I pursue a distinctly interdisciplinary research agenda and my work belongs to that branch of literary stylistics which interrogates literary texts with the methodology promoted by linguistics, in particular, 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 courtesy, conduct and etiquette books, 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.

2022 saw the online publication of the Corpus dei Galatei Italiani dell'Ottocento (CGIO) or  Corpus of Nineteenth-Century Italian Conduct Books, a specialised corpus compiled by Annick Paternoster and Francesca Saltamacchia. The CGIO contains a representative sample of the vast production of conduct and etiquette manuals in Italy during the long 19th century, 1800-1920. To download CGIO from SwissUbase, click here.

Together with Gudrun Held (University of Salzburg) e Daniel Kadar (Dalian University of Foreign Languages, China, and Hungarian Academy of Sciences) I am the co-editor of the 2023 Special Issue  Politeness in and across Historical Europe,  in "The Journal of Historical Pragmatics" (24.1).

In 2024 I will hold an introductory lecture at the international conference LO SCRITTOIO DELLE DONNE TRA VERISMO E POSTVERISMO. Intellettuali, scrittrici, pubbliciste, drammaturghe tra Otto e Novecento, organised by the Verga Foundation, Catania.

Recent Publications

- 2024. Discernment2 and Discernment1: Does Historical Politeness need Another Binary?Special Issue ed. by Jim O'Driscoll e Michael Haugh. The Journal of Politeness Research: Language, Behaviour, Culture, pp. 59-86.

- 2023. 'Per carità: da formula di preghiera a espressione di disaccordo', numero monografica di SILTA, a cura di Giovanna Alfonzetti, Emanuele Banfi e Franca Orletti, LII/1, pp. 143-157. 

- 2022. Historical Etiquette. Etiquette Books in Nineteenth-Century Western Cultures. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 


“Amour-propre ‘self-love’ and flattery: ‘Face’ pessimism in late-modern French sources”, in FACE – Linguistic Insights on a Sociopragmatic Concept, ed. by Gudrun Held. Leiden: Brill.

Public engagement

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, Canton Library Lugano, from the 20th of November 2018 to the 12th of January 2019. The exhibition was funded by the Pica Alfieri Foundation, Lugano, and was accompanied by a catalogue and an anthology of etiquette books.

In 2024 I took part in an episode dedicated to etiquette for The Forum, a BBC World Service programme.