Indirect Aggression: A Pragmatic Analysis of the Quarrel of the Queens in Völsungasaga, Þiðreks Saga, and Das Nibelungenlied


This article employs a pragmatic linguistic methodology to examine the verbal conflict in the so-called "Quarrel of the Queens" episode from the Nibelung Legend of Middle High German and Old Norse literature. Völsungasaga, Þiðreks saga af Bern, and Das Nibelungenlied portray the quarrel in sufficient detail to permit a comparative assessment of strategies of verbal conflict. Each source approaches the dialogue somewhat differently, but each relies heavily upon a strategy of verbal conflict that vacillates between indirectness in speech (speech that requires interpretation on the part of the listener) and directness in speech (speech that requires no interpretation). The arguer perceived (or who perceives herself) as holding the stronger position in the argument tends to maintain a veil of indirectness, while the arguer in the losing position may either attempt to gain the upper hand by intensifying indirectness or, conceding the weaker position, attempt to salvage her status by resorting to directness in speech. This strategy of verbal conflict thus appears to reflect a cultural principle that ought to find a comfortable home in a Germanic and Scandinavian heroic worldview: Indirectness reflects a position of strength, whereas directness reflects the weaker rhetorical and social status. Because these three sources were written during roughly the same period but in different cultural settings, any strategies of verbal conflict that remain consistent in all three texts indicate a pragmatic phenomenon that potentially transcends medieval Germanic and Scandinavian cultural boundaries.


English and Technical Communication

Keywords and Phrases

Das Nibelungenlied; Implicature; Pragmatics; Verbal conflict; Völsungasaga; Þiðreks saga af Bern

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Article - Journal

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