Greetings as social action in Finland Swedish and Sweden Swedish service encounters - a pluricentric perspective

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Nilsson , J , Norrthon , S , Lindström , J & Wide , C 2018 , ' Greetings as social action in Finland Swedish and Sweden Swedish service encounters - a pluricentric perspective ' Intercultural Pragmatics , vol. 15 , no. 1 , pp. 57-88 . DOI: 10.1515/ip-2017-0030

Title: Greetings as social action in Finland Swedish and Sweden Swedish service encounters - a pluricentric perspective
Author: Nilsson, Jenny; Norrthon, Stefan; Lindström, Jan; Wide, Camilla
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies
Date: 2018-04-20
Number of pages: 32
Belongs to series: Intercultural Pragmatics
ISSN: 1612-295X
Abstract: While greetings are performed in all cultures and open most conversations, previous studies suggest that there are cross-cultural differences between different languages in greeting behaviour (Duranti 1997; Pinto 2008; Wierzbicka 1985). But do speakers of different national varieties of the same language organize and perform their greeting behaviour in similar ways? In this study, we investigate the sequential organization of greetings in relation to gaze behaviour in the two national varieties of Swedish: Sweden Swedish spoken in Sweden and Finland Swedish spoken in Finland. In recent years, the importance of studying pluricentric languages (i.e. languages with more than one national centre, such as Swedish) from a pragmatic perspective has been foregrounded, not least within the framework of variational pragmatics (Schneider & Barron 2008). To date, most such studies have focused on structural differences between national varieties of pluricentric languages (but see Felix Brasdefer 2015). With this study, we extend the scope of variational pragmatics through adding an interactional, micro perspective to the broader macro analysis typical of this field. For this study, we have analysed patterns for greetings in 297 video-recorded service encounters, where staff and customers interact at theatre box offices and event booking venues in Sweden and Finland. The study shows that there are both similarities and differences in greeting behaviour between the two varieties. There is a strong preference for exchanging reciprocal verbal greetings, one at the time, in both varieties. There is also a similar organization of the greeting sequence, where customer and staff establish mutual gaze prior to the verbal greetings, thus signalling availability for interaction. The duration of mutual gaze and the timing of the greeting do however differ between the two varieties. We have also conducted a multimodal analysis of gaze behaviour in correlation to the greeting (see also Mondada 2016; Pillet-Shore 2012; Rossano 2012). In a subset of 56 recordings, we found that the customers and staff in the Finland-Swedish data share mutual gaze before and during the verbal greeting, and often avert gaze after the verbal greetings. In the Sweden-Swedish data, on the other hand, the participants often avert gaze before the verbal greetings. Our results thus indicate that both similarities and differences in pragmatic routines and bodily behaviour exist between the two national varieties of Swedish. The present study on greeting practices in Finland Swedish and Sweden Swedish should be seen as a contribution to the field of variational pragmatics as well as to the development of pluricentric theory more generally.
Subject: 6121 Languages
variational pragmatics
Pluricentric languages
service encounters
Sweden Swedish
Finland Swedish

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