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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.
- Spring '08
- The Bible