Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Phatic tokens

These are ways of showing status by orienting comments to oneself, to the other, or to the general or prevailing situation (in England this is usually the weather).
  • Self-oriented phatic tokens are personal to the speaker: “I'm not up to this” or “My feet are killing me”.
  • Other-oriented tokens are related to the hearer: “Do you work here?” or “You seem to know what you're doing”.
  • neutral token refers to the context or general state of affairs: “Cold, isn't it?” or “Lovely flowers”.
A superior shows consideration in an other-oriented token, as when the Queen says to the factory worker: “It must be jolly hard to make one of those”. The inferior might respond with a self-oriented token, like “Hard work, this”. On the surface, there is an exchange of information. In reality there is a suggestion and acceptance of a hierarchy of status. The factory worker would be unlikely to respond with, “Yes, but it's not half as hard as travelling the world, trooping the colour, making a speech at Christmas and dissolving Parliament.”

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