hence why bother with the study of different

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Unformatted text preview: ngs achieve them. As a consequence, differences in what people say can be ignored and we end up supporting the view that "once you've seen a greeting, you've seen them all/' a corollary of the more general principle "once you've seen a ritual, you've seen them all." (Hence, why bother with the study of different societies, given that all you need can be found in your own backyard?) The context for understanding what people say during greetings is nothing more or nothing less than the culture that supports and is supported by the encounters in which greetings occur or that are constituted by them. The method by which such encounters need to be studied must then minimally include (1) ethnography,4 (2) the recording of what is actually said, and (3) at least a working definition of the phenomenon that is being investigated. Too many of the existing studies of greetings are based either on observation, interviews, or field notes, without the support of film or electronic recording or on recordings without proper ethnographic work (see Duranti 1997a: ch. 5). The Universality of Greetings The starting assumption in this study is that we must be open to all kinds of conventional openings in social encounters as potential cases of greetings. Although some speech communities have activity-specific items that are used only for greetings (the American English "hi!" and the Italian "ciao," for example5), the existing literature shows that many communities do not have such expressions, and what people say during greetings might be identical to what is being said during other kinds of speech activities, the English "how're you doing?" being an example of such a type. For this reason, to concentrate only on lexical items and phrases exclusively reserved for greetings (or, more generally, salutations) would be tantamount to admitting that many languages do not have greetings or have a much restricted set of types. The criteria provided below are offered as a solution to this problem. Criteria for Identifying Greetings across Languages Building on the studies mentioned above and a few others, it is possible to extract a set of six recurring features to be used as criteria for the identification of greetings in a speech community: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. near-boundary occurrence; establishment of a shared perceptual field; adjacency pair format; relative predictability of form and content; implicit establishment of a spatio-temporal unit of interaction; and identification of the interlocutor as a distinct being worth recognizing. As it will become apparent in the following discussion, some of these features could be grouped into larger categories. For example, features 3, 68 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 4, a nd 6 cover what is actually said in greetings, whereas features 2,5, and 6 are reformulations of what other authors have identified as potential functions of greetings. In addition, features 1 a nd 5 (and in some ways, 2) define the spat...
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