Phatic

Phatic

[fat-ik]
In linguistics, a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information. The term was coined by famous anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the early 1900s.

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 be polite in response to a gift.

Similarly, in the English language, 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 inflection.

The utterance of a phatic expression is a kind of speech act.

In speech communication the term means "small talk" (conversation for its own sake) and has also been called "grooming talking".

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References

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