A Contrastive Study of Greetings

Estonian, Russian Estonian and Anglo-American Politeness Strategies

Daria Bahtina, unpublished MA thesis

The notion of politeness has attracted extensive attention in the last decades. Theoreticians analyze various instances of communicative acts and create sophisticated networks in order to reveal the norms that govern human behavior. The concepts are constructed and later used to talk about everyday communication, which might be dangerous due to the fact that theory and practice, though similar in essence, might discuss same notions using different terminologies. This paper is aimed at finding greeting tendencies in a given society concentrating on both theory and its practical realizations. The subject of investigation is the greeting behavior among Estonian- and Russian-dominant speakers in Estonia. This specific group received little attention and the findings are believed to be useful for understanding the nature of politeness in this particular culture.

The research concentrates on greeting patterns recorded in the Tartu University Library. The main hypothesis is that Estonians are apt to omit greetings in situations when the vocative, or attention-getting, function of politeness is missing (the other function being politeness-expressing). Another hypothesis is derived from the statement that Estonians generally greet less than Anglo-Americans and Russians. Next, it is also hypothesized that Russian Estonians greet more often than authentic Estonians. To test that, the first part of the study is conducted in the form of participant observation. Finally, the hypothesis is set up that in actual interaction people tend to use fewer politeness strategies than they deem polite in externally evaluating the same situations presented to them. The experiment designed for this hypothesis is a body of evaluations collected from ordinary language users where they display not the expressive, but the categorizing form of politeness.


Complimenting Behavior among Speakers of English and Russian

Cross-Cultural Study of Politeness Strategies

Daria Bahtina, unpublished BA thesis

Human communication faces numerous inaccuracies and misunderstandings due to divergences between different systems. The origin might lie in the fact that the representatives of the groups belong to divergent discourse systems. It is not difficult to imagine why there might be tensions between people with Western and Eastern cultural backgrounds, seniors and juniors, men and women, superiors and subordinates.

The aim of the study is to investigate complimenting as one of the aspects reflecting strategies that vary culturally. According to anecdotal evidence, some groups of people give compliments generously as flattery, whilst others are reluctant to word even praise. This study will attempt to find out why this should be the case by comparing Americans, British and Russians. The aim of the study is to analyze complimenting behavior from a particular point of view, namely in the superior-subordinate situation.

The first part of the work introduces the main theoretical concepts pertinent to the study and gives a general overview of politeness strategies that are believed to be true more or less universally. In this, the study draws mainly from the works by Scollon and Scollon (1995) and Brown and Levinson (1987).

The following part is a comparison between the relevant cultures outlined through a discussion of works by the researchers who deal with American, British and Russian politeness behaviors. Finally, the analysis based on theory and a survey conducted by the author is presented in order to reveal the actual situation and contemporary shifting tendencies.

The originality of the study lies in the fact that previous research in the field of comparing these particular cultures in respect to their complimenting behavior is scanty and insufficient. On the basis of these factors this work might be presented as an attempt to raise the issue that should be dealt with more thoroughly.