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This research monograph examines familiar letters in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English to provide a pragmatic reading of the meanings that writers make and readers infer. The first part of the book presents a method of analyzing historical texts. The second part seeks to validate this method through case studies that illuminate how modern pragmatic theory may be applied to distant speech communities in both history and culture in order to reveal how speakers understand one another and how they exploit intended and unintended meanings for their own communicative ends. The analysis demonstrates the application of pragmatic theory (including speech act theory, deixis, politeness, implicature, and relevance theory) to the study of historical, literary and fictional letters from extended correspondences, producing an historically informed, richly situated account of the meanings and interpretations of those letters that a close reading affords.
This book will be of interest to scholars of the history of the English language, historical pragmatics, discourse analysis, as well as to social and cultural historians, and literary critics.