Important Concepts for the Analysis of Greetings
as Speech Acts: The notion of greetings as "speech acts" is
based on an approach to human communication called "speech
act theory" according to which to use language means to "do
things" or "perform." If speaking is acting in the
world or on the world, informing is only one of the acts we perform
by using language. We also make requests, order people around,
scold, praise, congratulate, warn, promise, threat, reassure, and
greet. There are, in other words, many different types of speech
acts and greetings are one type.
expressions: "Greeting expressions" refer
to the specific lexical items or phrases that count as "greetings" in
a given speech community, e.g. English hello, hi, how're you
doing?, what's up, hey dude, good morning, etc.
pairs consist of sequences which properply have the following features:
(1) two utterance
length, (2) adjacent positioning of component utterances, (3)
different speakers producing each utterance." (Schegloff
and Sacks 1973).
Speaker A produces the first pair part (e.g. question)
Speaker B produces the second pair part (e.g. answer)
The first pair part invites, constrains, and partially determines
the meaning and range of possible second pair part. Here are some
examples of adjacency pairs that functions as greeting exchanges:
(1) (Kasigau, a Bantu language of southern Kenya, from Milton 1982)
A; wawuka? 'have
you woken (well)?' <--- first pair part of greeting
nawuka. 'I have woken (well).' <-------- second pair part
of greeting adjacency pair
(2) (Italian, beginning of a telephone conversation, from Duranti
G; pronto, 'hello,'
S; Giorgio? 'Giorgio?'
G; ah ciao. 'oh
hi.' <--- first pair part of greeting adjacency
ciao. 'hi.' <-----------
second pair part of greeting adjacency pair
Further Readings To find out more about universals of greetings, see A. Duranti (1997) Universal and Culture-specific Properties of Greetings. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 7 (1): 63-97 [Republished in A. Duranti (Ed.) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Blackwell, pp. 208-238. ] or go to publications.