This projects fits within the vast body on politeness research, but focuses on one specific politeness strategy in Spanish, namely the speech act of apologizing. Although a large number of studies have already been dedicated to the study of politeness and speech acts in the English-speaking world, it is only until recently that it has emerged in the field of Hispanic studies. The attraction towards this category should not be surprising, since the act of apologizing constitutes a complex speech act that involves an ample gamut of both language-internal and language-external features. In order to account for this multidimensional nature of apologizing, the phenomenon will be studied from complementary perspectives, taking into account different dimensions of linguistic variation, including (1) a (micro)diachronic dimension, (2) a sociolinguistic dimension in contemporary Spanish and (3) a contrastive dimension:
- The diachronic study will focus on the development of a set of near-synonymous parenthetical apologetic markers such as lo siento, lo lamento, disculpa/e, perdona/e.
- Apologizing strategies will also be studied from a sociolinguistic angle including age, gender and educational level in colloquial contemporary Spanish.
- From a (micro)typological and cross-linguistic perspective in comparison with its near-synonymous equivalents in other genetically and/or areally relatively closely related languages (Eng: ‘(I am) sorry’, Fr: ‘je suis désolé’, It: ‘mi dispiace’ etc.). Other dialectal variants of Spanish might also be taken into account (e.g. Mexican Spanish vs. peninsular Spanish).
This set of near-synonyms will be described from several perspectives and at several analytical levels: pragmatic, semantic, morphosyntactic, and even prosodic ones. The following research questions are central:
- What are the semantic-pragmatic differences between near-synonymous apologizing expressions, both on the intra- and interlinguistic level?
- To which extent do they serve divergent discursive functions and, are some of them more closely related to each other in specific domains than they do in others? Do these semantic-pragmatic differences correlate with distributional (dis)similarity?
- Taking into account general trends in the field of politeness research, how do these politeness strategies correlate with sociolinguistic variables, such as age and gender of the interlocutors?