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Phatic Communication Report

Phatic Communication Report

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Published by Karyn N. Lewis
Research paper in association with 0535-315-01 Qualitative Research Methods - Rochester Institute of Technology Winter 20072
Research paper in association with 0535-315-01 Qualitative Research Methods - Rochester Institute of Technology Winter 20072

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Karyn N. Lewis on Jan 03, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Karyn LewisQualitative Research Methods0535-315-01 Winter 20072Phatic Communication ReportLanguage use implies making the appropriate choices of linguistic forms for the appropriatecommunicative setting and cultural context. This definition sees language as a symbolic tool of socialinteraction and human communication, and emphasizes the system of rules and principles that define howlanguage functions in everyday life. Meaning, however, is considered a pragmatic phenomenon thatdepends on the communicative setting, social relationships, and cultural context. By the rules of linguisticcommunication, even an utterance has a message, and hence a purpose. The most prominent kind of exchange individuals engage in is phatic communication
exchanges purely meant to establish and
maintain the possibility of social interactions. This is the linguistic phenomenon of “small talk”— 
exchanges meant to provide a social connection rather than transmit information. Therefore, every time aperson is active in building a relation, he is involved in a phatic exchange.With any type of naturalistic research, observation is key. On site, researchers need to franticallytake notes, mentally and physically. I spent roughly 40 minutes studying the use of phatic communicationamong my peers in a setting inappropriate for anything but
the gym. I made observations and took notesas discretely as possible (I tried not to stare) while cycling away on a stationary bike in the front rowupper-level cardio fitness area at the RIT gym beginning around 2pm Monday, December 10, 2007.However, my mind tends to work analytically, and the majority of my observations were made in theform of mental conclusions of the overall scene, which I will describe here.I originally thought of phatic communication as verbal, but quickly learned it may also becommunicated with nonverbal gestures (a warm handshake or a wave), facial expressions (a smile or aworrisome expression), and tone of voice. This is the most obvious conclusion drawn from simpleobservation of human behavior over a short period of time. In my experience, the majority of passersbysimply acknowledged their sweat-
stained peers with a nod or smile, sometimes a simple “hello”— 
if anything at all. From this, I can see that individuality is so obviously a dominant characteristic of American culture. Americans generally have an "everyone for himself" type of attitude, which, evidently,is reflected in our social system. Not only do we engage in phatic communication in an individualistic and

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