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Unformatted text preview: to believe that the meaning of such a
concern could be the same across species. For instance, Firth (1972), Goffman (1971), and others suggested that greetings in all societies are about
continuity of relationships, but the representation, conceptualization, and
perception of continuity by humans are likely to be much more complex
than those found in other species, partly due to the use of human language
(Leach 1972). Furthermore, without minimizing the aggressive potential of
human psyche and human action, we must remember that there are other
things in life besides fighting or avoiding fights. Hence, even if w e accept
that greeting behavior might have phylogenetically originated from avoidance behavior, we still must demonstrate that such an origin is relevant to
the specific context in which a particular greeting is used.
A second set of studies of greetings is ethnographically oriented. These
studies tend to be descriptive in nature, focusing on culture-specific aspects
of greeting behaviors, but they also share an interest in a few potentially
universal dimensions such as the sequential properties of greeting exchanges and the importance of status definition and manipulation. This is
particularly true of two classic studies of African greetings: Esther Goody's
(1972) comparison of greeting and begging among the Gonja and the
Lodagaa—a stratified and an acephalous society respectively—and Judith
Irvine's (1974) study of Wolof greetings.
Ethnographically oriented studies tend to highlight the importance of
identity definition in greetings. Some of them also reveal the subtle ways
in which greetings are connected to or part of the definition of the ongoing
(or ensuing) activity. This is especially the case in Caton's (1986) and
Milton's (1982) studies, which provide clear examples not only of the
religious dimensions of greetings in some societies but also of how what is
said during greetings both presupposes and entails a particular type of
social encounter (see also Duranti 1992a).
The emphasis on the sequential nature of greeting exchanges is the most
important contribution of the work of conversation analysts. Schegloff and
Sacks's work on conversational openings and closings, for instance, shows
that greetings should not be analyzed as isolated acts but as a series of pairs,
adjacency pairs, whereby the uttering of the first part by one party calls for
and at the same time defines the range of a possible "next turn" b y a second
party, the recipient (Sacks 1992; Schegloff 1968,1986; Schegloff and Sacks
1973). Sacks's (1975) study of "How are y ou?" a s a "greeting substitute" in 6 66 Journal of Linguistic Anthropology English provides a stimulating description of the interactional implications
of choosing to greet and choosing to answer in a particular way; we learn
why answering "fine" has different consequences from answering "lousy,"
and hence we are provided with a sociological justification for lying. As I
will show later, the extension of these insights into...
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