This aspect of greetings needs to be further

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Unformatted text preview: ir denotational value (to be assessed in terms of truth) can be largely ignored. Whether people say "hi/' "good morning/' or "how are you?" has been seen as an index of properties of the context (for example, the relationship between the parties, the nature of the social encounter) rather than as a concern participants manifest toward gaining access to new information about their interlocutors. This aspect of greetings needs to be further qualified in at least three ways. First, it should be made clear that information is exchanged in human encounters regardless of whether there is talk. Even when there is no speech, there are usually plenty of semiotic resources in an encounter for participants to give out information about themselves and make inferences about others. Such semiotic resources are based on or include participants' mere physical presence, their gestures, posture, and movements, their clothes, the objects they carry or the tools they are using. Second, there is information exchanged beyond the propositional content of what is said. For example, prosodic and paralinguistic features are a rich source of cues for contextualization (Gumperz 1992). Finally, even common formulaic expressions can be informative. In fact, if we start from the assumption that what is said and done in any human encounter lives along a formulaic-creative continuum, greetings might simply be interactions that tend to fall toward the formulaic side. We cannot, however, in principle assume that, because greetings are formulaic, (i) they are always completely predictable, (ii) they have no information value, and (iii) participants have nothing invested in the propositional value of what is said. First, the fact of considering an exchange highly routinized does not make its content completely predictable or uninteresting for social analysis, a point well illustrated by Bourdieu's (1977) analysis of gift exchange and Schegloff s (1986) discussion of telephone openings. It is still important to ascertain how participants manage to achieve the expected or preferred outcome. Second, the occurrence of certain routine and highly predictable questions and answers during greetings does not imply that the parties involved do not exchange some new information. Third, whether or not the participants are interested in the information that is being exchanged should be an empirical question and not an unquestioned assumption. Criterion 5: Implicit Establishment of a Spatiotemporal Unit of Interaction The occurrence of greetings defines a unit of interaction. Sacks (1975) alluded to this feature of greetings by saying that they occur only once in an interaction and that they can constitute a "minimal proper conversation." More generally, greetings clearly enter into the definition of larger units of analysis such as a day at work, different parts of the day with family members, or even extended interactions over several months—for example, when done through electronic mail (Duranti 1986). That the "unit" is Universal and Culture-Specific Properties of Greetings something more complex than a...
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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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