Political oratory, power and authority in a medieval Mediterranean kingdom

Joan A. Argenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Historical linguistic ethnography deals with verbal productions in the context of the conditions under which they came into being and the cultural meanings attributed to them at the time. The research procedure in ethnography is fieldwork, but historical linguistic ethnography is based on the examination of texts. Research, however, proceeds not from texts themselves, but from the questions addressed to texts. The linguistic/interactional material presented is drawn from political oratory in medieval Catalan society. The questions to be answered are: How did specific verbal practices interact with political life? What was the role played by codes, code-choice and codeswitching? What were the sociopolitical factors that gave rise to and made sense of these verbal resources? In Catalonia, political oratory arose out of clerical oratory. The Church abandoned Latin as the language of preaching when a Catalan language fully separate from Latin developed the lexical and syntactic resources that enabled it to serve as a vehicle for complex discourse. At the same time, a Catalan proto-state was emerging. The political oratory in question was performed at the Cort, an incipient institution of political representation. This was simultaneously a political assembly, a frame defining participants' roles, a communicative setting, a performance frame, and a traditionally patterned speech event. In this article a particular Cort is analyzed as one such complex event. © 2008, EQUINOX PUBLISHING.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
JournalSociolinguistic Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


  • Catalan
  • Codes and codeswitching
  • Genres
  • Historical ethnography of language
  • Political oratory
  • Power and authority


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