The pragmatics of greetings and leave-takings in Brazil and the United States : a cross-cultural study

Flanzer, Vivian
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This dissertation examines the cultural norms involved in greetings and leave-takings in different situations of social interaction as reported by university students from Brazil and the United States, investigating the differences and similarities between these norms in the two countries and if the gender of the speaker influences verbal and/or nonverbal behavior in greetings and leave-takings. Using aspects of pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and the model of frame (Terkourafi, 2005a), and following the studies of Koike and Lacorte (2017), Moraes (2001) and Schneider (2012a), I created a cultural survey that was answered by 182 Americans and 178 Brazilians. My findings show that the American and Brazilian students reported using the same greeting and leave-taking forms, indicating that they share a similar cultural frame regarding these speech acts. However, the results showed that, in most situations, the frequencies of these forms vary in both groups, suggesting that the Americans and Brazilians have different cultural norms and expectations regarding the realization of these greetings and leave-takings. A comparison of these data shows that the Brazilian university students reported a higher tendency than their American counterparts to use Body Language and Vocatives in greetings and leave-takings, and Pre-Closures in leave-takings. The Americans, on the other hand, tended to mention Positive Comments in leave-takings and Status Questions in greetings. Critically, I found that these tendencies differ in terms of frequencies and/or linguistic realization according to the levels of social distance between the interactants. This knowledge is important for cross-cultural communication because it is through the choices of specific greeting and leave-taking forms and types of verbal and nonverbal expression that speakers sustain their relationships and display their identities. Moreover, this study reveals that gender variation does not play a major role in greetings and leave-takings for these students, indicating that a change might be underway toward more gender equality in both societies among this age group. By revealing the norms and expectations of speech communities in different situations of interaction, this large cross-cultural pragmatics study helps dispel blanket statements and stereotypes about peoples and cultures.