Language and power in Roman comedy
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The theory of powerless speech suggests that speakers in powerless social positions use more “powerless” speech acts than their social superiors. This report will use two such powerless speech acts, hedges and tag questions, to examine the interplay between the power relationships of Roman comedy and the language of its characters. The results of this study show that Republican Latin does not always follow the theory’s predictions, suggesting that hedges and tag questions may not be powerless speech acts in Latin; that the theory may need to be modified in order to accommodate Latin; or that the Saturnalian nature of Roman comedy prevents the expected outcome of powerless language.