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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Passing greetings and interactional style: A cross-cultural study of American English and Peninsular Spanish

Derrin Pinto1

1University of Saint Thomas

Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication. Volume 27, Issue 4, Pages 371–388, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: 10.1515/MULTI.2008.017, December 2008

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Although it may seem contradictory, when Spaniards ‘greet’ each other in passing they often employ formulas associated with farewells such as adiós (‘bye’) or hasta luego (‘see you later’). This common practice contrasts with other languages like American English in which speakers use greeting formulas, including ‘hi, hello’ or ‘how are you?’. This study explores this source of cross-cultural variation and explains how the conventional speech behavior in both language communities is consistent with their respective interactional styles. The passing greeting in English is in line with speakers who invest their verbal energy in showing good intentions, maintaining an image of social harmony, and using strategies of negative politeness to avoid imposing on the hearer. The passing farewell in Spain, on the other hand, is consistent with a culture that values positive politeness, establishing solidarity and being direct.

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