Duranti1997_Greetings

nor is it always the case that routinized questions

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Unformatted text preview: another language and a different speech community shows that it is not always as easy to determine what is a greeting "substitute." Nor is it always the case that routinized questions can be easily answered by lying. Finally, greetings have been analyzed by speech act theorists, who focused on their function as acknowledgment of another person's presence. Searle (1969) and Searle and Vanderveken (1985) proposed to analyze English greetings as an example of the "expressive" type of speech act,2 aimed at the "courteous indication of recognition" of the other party (Searle and Vanderveken 1985:216), and Bach and Harnish (1979) classified greetings as "acknowledgments," their reformulation of Austin's "behabitive"3 and Searle's "expressives." In line with authors in other research traditions, Searle (1969) and Searle and Vanderveken (1985) also assume that greetings have no propositional content, while Bach and Harnish (1979:51-52) interpret the act of greeting as an expression of "pleasure at seeing (or meeting)" someone. The claim that greetings have no propositional content—or almost zero referential value (Youssouf et al. 1976)—is at least as old as Malinowski's (1923:315-316) introduction of the notion of "phatic communion," a concept that was originally meant to recast speech as a mode of action, a form of social behavior that establishes or confirms social relations and does not necessarily communicate "new ideas." The problem with the characterization of greetings as "phatic," and hence merely aimed at establishing or maintaining "contact" (Jakobson 1960), is that it makes it difficult to account for differences across and within communities in what people say during greetings. Finally, the view of greeting as an act that displays pleasure might make sense in some contexts and especially in those situations where verbal greetings are accompanied by smiles and other nonverbal as well as verbal displays of positive affect (for example, the English "Nice to see you"), but it might not be generalizable beyond such cases. The interest in the biological basis of greetings, their social functions, their sequential organization, and their illocutionary force have revealed a number of recurrent properties of greetings and have presented interesting hypotheses about the form and function of greetings. At the same time, the emphasis on the "social functions" of greetings has contributed to the trivialization of what people actually talk about during greetings. If the only or main goal of greeting is to acknowledge another person's presence, what is actually said during a greeting may be seen as socially insignificant. In this article I argue that this lack of consideration of the propositional content of greetings presents considerable empirical problems, and I suggest that we need ethnographically grounded analyses of greeting expressions to solve such problems. One of the problems in ignoring the content of verbal greetings is that it establishes loose connections between social functions and the talk used to Universal and Culture-Specific Properties of Greeti...
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This note was uploaded on 01/16/2014 for the course ANTHRO 33 taught by Professor Wertheim during the Spring '08 term at UCLA.

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