‘Without you I am an Orphan’: Exploring Emotion and Interpersonal Pragmatics in the Late Ramesside Letters

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Emotions are one of the hardest human behavioural phenomena to qualitatively analyse, especially from a cross-cultural perspective, as often a combination of linguistic and multi-modal cues are employed for emotional displays. These are cues that can be easily misinterpreted by an observer. When dealing with an ancient culture and working from written texts only, the possibility of misinterpretation is even more apparent, and so a systematic analysis is needed to assess linguistic patterns in written communications, rather than a reliance on “common sense”. This paper will utilise frameworks and approaches from relational work and from pragmatics in order to ask two main questions (in line with those proposed by Langlotz and Locher1): 1) how are emotions signalled in interaction in Late Egyptian letters and how is the communication of emotion influenced by social and cultural norms? 2) What are the links between emotion and interpersonal relationships? The Late Ramesside Letters are a valuable resource in analysing social networks; they manifest a variety of relationships across the social distance scale, and highlight linguistic patterns demonstrating how intimate relations were maintained within this social network. In this paper, I will argue that the letters viably demonstrate the role of emotion in maintaining interpersonal relationships and, via frameworks from interpersonal pragmatics, demonstrate how these emotive utterances can be qualitatively and systematically analysed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Expression of Emotions in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
EditorsShi-Wei Hsu, Juame Llop
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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