Closing conflicts. Conversational strategies across Greek and Roman tragedies


Abstract – Pre-closing and closing sequences are a standard feature of conversations, permitting a harmonious end to an exchange. As Schegloff and Sacks (1973, p. 289) put it, a conversation “does not simply end, but is brought to a close”. The absence of closing sequences, in turn, is a strong indicator of some irregularity, potentially a conflict between the interlocutors. This paper deals with closing sequences in ancient tragedy. According to the rules of the genre, tragedies deal with conflicts that do not find a peaceful resolution, barring a few exceptions. There is thus a significant number of conversations in which no agreement is reached. Often, the close of the dialogues does not follow the regular patterns. Instead, the non-negotiated and unmediated end affirms the non-cooperative nature of the dialogue. This paper looks specifically at how the close of the conversation is managed where disagreement persists, in an approach that considers both the specificity of the individual situation and broad diachronic developments. It thus offers a contribution to the systematization of termination of dialogue, complementing in particular the wide field of studies on closing procedures with a survey of texts in which these procedures are not observed.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v31p233

Keywords: closings; conflicts; Greek tragedy; Roman tragedy; conversational strategies


Barrios-Lech P.G. 2016, Linguistic Interaction in Roman Comedy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Boyle A.J. 2008, Octavia, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Button G. 1987, Moving out of closings, in Button G., and Lee J.R. (eds.), Talk and social organisation, Multilingual Matters, Clevedon, pp. 101-151.

Emde Boas E.v. 2017, Language and Character in Euripides’ Electra, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Ferri R. 2003, Octavia: A play attributed to Seneca. Cambridge classical texts and commentaries, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Frank A.W. 1982, Improper closings: the art of conversational repudiation, in “Human Studies” 5 [4], pp. 357-370.

Iurescia F. 2019, Credo iam ut solet iurgabit. Pragmatica della lite a Roma, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen.

Jacobs A. and Jucker A.H. 1995, The historical perspective in Pragmatics, in Jucker A.H. (ed.), Historical Pragmatics, John Benjamins, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, pp. 3-33.

Jucker A.H. and Taavitsainen I. 2008, Apologies in the history of English: routinized and lexicalized expressions of responsibility and regret, in Jucker A.H. and Taavitsainen I. (eds.), Speech acts in the history of English, John Benjamins, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, pp. 229-244.

Jucker A.H. and Taavitsainen I. 2013, English Historical Pragmatics, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Kerbrat-Orecchioni C. 1990, Les interactions verbales, tome 1, Coulin, Paris.

Lausberg H. 1990 (1949), Elemente der literarischen Rhetorik, Hueber, München.

Laver J. 1975, Communicative Functions of Phatic Communion, in Kendon A., Harris R. M. and Ritchiekey M. (eds.), Organization of Behavior in Face-to-Face Interaction, Mouton, The Hague/Paris, pp. 215-238.

Laver J. 1981, Linguistic Routines and Politeness in Greeting and Parting, in Coulmas F. (ed.), Conversational Routine, Mouton, The Hague/Paris, pp. 289-304.

Locher M.A., Jucker A.H. 2017, Pragmatics of Fiction, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin/Boston.

Orlandini A. and Poccetti P. 2010, Stratégies discursives de non-interpellation et échecs de l’interpellation dans des dialogues latins, in “Corela: Cognition, Représentation, Langage” [HS-8]. (15/01/2018).

Poccetti P. 2010, Greeting and farewell expressions as evidence for colloquial language: between literary and epigraphical texts, in Dickey E. and Chahoud A. (eds.), Colloquial and Literary Latin, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 100-126.

Ricottilli L. 2009, Appunti sulla pragmatica della comunicazione e della letteratura latina, in “Studi italiani di Filologia classica”, Suppl. VII, 1 [4], pp. 123-170.

Roesch S. 2002, Les stratégies de clôture du dialogue dans les comédies de Plaute, in Bolkestein M., Kroon C.H.M., Pinkster H., Remmelink H.W. and Risselada R. (eds.), Theory and description in Latin Linguistics, selected papers from the 11th International Colloquium on Latin Linguistics, Gieben, Amsterdam, pp. 317-332.

Roesch S. 2005, L’echec des clôtures du dialogue dans les comédies de Plaute, in Calboli G. (ed.), Papers on Grammar, IX, 2, Herder, Rome, pp. 921-932.

Schegloff E. and Sacks H. 1973, Opening up Closings, in “Semiotica” 8 [4], pp. 289-327.

Schuren L. 2015, Shared Storytelling in Euripidean stichomythia, Brill, Leiden.

Sidnell J. 2010, Conversation Analysis. An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.

Vuchinich S. 1990, The sequential organization of closing in verbal family conflict, in Grimshaw A.D. (ed.), Conflict talk: sociolinguistic investigations of arguments in conversations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 118-138.

Wardhaugh R. 1985, How conversation works, Blackwell, Oxford.

Full Text: pdf


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.