Polite like an Egyptian? Case Studies of ‘Politeness’ in the Late Ramesside Letters

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The Late Ramesside Letters (LRL), a corpus of over 70 personal communications written in Late Egyptian, are one of the most complete letter collections from ancient Egypt (1099–1069 BC). A key feature of ancient Egyptian letter writing is the adherence to the social positions of, and relationships between, the interlocutors, allowing scholars to reconstruct the hierarchical network of individuals directly and indirectly included in the corpus. How then can modern scholars discern what was considered to be ‘polite’ communicative behaviour within these relationships and how can developments in historical politeness help us do this? This article will explore three case studies surrounding different aspects of politeness research: first-order politeness, facework, and discernment politeness, in order to explore the phenomenon of ‘politeness’ in Late Egyptian and reflect on the suitability of current ‘politeness’ frameworks for the analysis of the Late Ramesside Letters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-266
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Politeness Research
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Late Egyptian
  • Late Ramesside Letters
  • facework
  • politeness1
  • discernment politeness

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