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In linguistics, a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information.[1] The term was coined by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in the early 1900s.

For example, "you're welcome" is not intended to convey the message that the hearer is welcome; it is a phatic response to being thanked, which in turn is a phatic whose function is to be polite in response to a gift.

Similarly, in the English language, the question "how are you?" is usually an automatic component of a social encounter. Although there are times when "how are you?" is asked in a sincere, concerned manner and does in fact anticipate a detailed response regarding the respondent's present state, this needs to be pragmatically inferred from context and intonation.

The utterance of a phatic expression is a kind of speech act.

In speech communication the term means "small talk" (conversation for its own sake) and has also been called "grooming talking".[2]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Malinowski, B. (1923) "The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages”, in: Charles K. Ogden / Ian A. Richards (eds.), The Meaning of Meaning, 146-152, London: Routledge
  2. ^ "Teach Yourself Linguistics", by Jean Aitchison, ISBN 978-0340870839
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