The Art of Conversation

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The Art of Conversation is a major contribution to the social history of language - a relatively new field which has become the focus of lively interdisciplinary debate in recent years.

Drawing on the work of sociolinguists and others, Burke uses their concept while reserving the right to qualify their theories where the historical record makes this seem appropriate. Like the sociolinguists, Burke in concerned with the way language varies according to who is communicating to ...

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The Art of Conversation

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Overview

The Art of Conversation is a major contribution to the social history of language - a relatively new field which has become the focus of lively interdisciplinary debate in recent years.

Drawing on the work of sociolinguists and others, Burke uses their concept while reserving the right to qualify their theories where the historical record makes this seem appropriate. Like the sociolinguists, Burke in concerned with the way language varies according to who is communicating to whom, on what occasion, in what medium and on what topic. Unlike many sociolinguists, Burke adds a historical dimension, treating language as an inseparable part of social history.

This approach is outlined and justified in the first chapter and then exemplified in the remaining four, which deal with the early modern period. Among the topics discussed are the changing role of Latin, which is shown to be very much alive in the age of its alleged decline; language and identity in Italy, a politically divided region at the time but one where educated elites had a common language; the art of conversation, in other words the advice on speaking in polite company offered in hundreds of treaties of the period; and silence, viewed as an act of communication with a significance which changes over time and varies according to the setting and the persons who are silent.

The Art of Conversation will be of great interest to students and scholars in social and cultural history, linguistics, the sociology of language and the ethnography of communication.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A social history of language in early modern Europe. From how to deliver an insult, to how to ask for a drink, Burke explores the complex, ever-changing conventions of language with the motivation that without such analysis, one cannot tell for sure if a text is serious or ironic. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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The Art Of Conversation by Peter Burke. This social history of language explores the role of Latin after the Middle Ages; surveys the art of conversation in 16th-century Italy, 17th-century France, and 18th-century Britain; and traces the history of silence as communication in early modern Europe. (Cornell) 178pp. PB
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801429569
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Series: 4/18/2002
  • Pages: 178
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Burke is Reader in Cultural History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College.
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Table of Contents

Preface
1 The Social History of Language 1
2 'Heu Domine, Adsunt Turcae': a Sketch for a Social History of Post-Medieval Latin 34
3 Language and Identity in Early Modern Italy 66
4 The Art of Conversation in Early Modern Europe 89
5 Notes for a Social History of Silence in Early Modern Europe 123
Bibliography 143
Index 174
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