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La violence verbale comme pratique sociale : une perspective historique

Verbal Violence as a Social Practice : a Historical Perspective
Sabine Lehmann
p. 141-166


The study is dedicated to the historical changes in the verbal violence phenomenon. We start with the wide range of actions that cover this phenomenon (insults, verbal abuse, contempt, blasphemy etc.) to question the relevance of the (legal or literary) approach to be used to identify and analyse verbal violence in the history of the French language. More particularly, we are interested in the ancient times and Middle Ages in France (until the start of the French Renaissance period) in which the various manifestations of the invective are studied in legal documents (letters of remission, extracts from public records) and literary texts of various genres (folk and love songs, fabliaux and jokes). Considering a variety of documents will allow us to show that verbal violence is practised by all social categories and across all genders. The form and content of the insults recorded in these various documents show both plasticity and stability constraints. Plasticity is necessary since the language must spread changing attitudes. As for stability, this is a preservation factor that contributes to recognition within a social group. Indeed, we will show that verbal violence plays an essential role in the cohesion of a cultural and social group. We contemplate insults as a social practice representing the final barrier between civility and the physical act.

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Bibliographical reference

Lehmann, S. (2012) La violence verbale comme pratique sociale : une perspective historique. Cahiers de praxématique 58. Montpellier : Pulm. 141-166

Electronic reference

Sabine Lehmann, « La violence verbale comme pratique sociale : une perspective historique »Cahiers de praxématique [Online], 58 | 2012, document 6, Online since 01 January 2015, connection on 01 December 2020. URL: ; DOI :

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About the author

Sabine Lehmann

Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Modyco UMR 7114

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