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Daria Bahtina, unpublished MA thesis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.

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