Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Phatic Expressions

In linguistics, a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information.

For example: "You're welcome" is not intended to convey the message that the hearer is welcome; it is a phatic response to being thanked, which in turn is a phatic whose function is to acknowledge the receipt of a benefit.

Similarly, the question "how are you?" is usually an automatic component of a social encounter. Although there are times when "how are you?" is asked in a sincere, concerned manner and does in fact anticipate a detailed response regarding the respondent's present state, this needs to be pragmatically inferred from context and intonation.


  1. It's frustrating when I ask sincerely, and I get "fine" in return. :/

    But then, it's a big question. Sometimes it takes a while to be able to answer honestly.

  2. Perhaps that is its' purpose, to open up a social space... that can be/or need not be taken advantage of.

  3. ...and it's a two-way street. ;)

  4. Thank goodness!

    I used to get so frustrated with One Way streets.


  5. You should heed the "Do not Enter" sign so that you don't end up heading the Wrong Way on one. ;)

  6. Are we talking about roads or relationships?? :-)