More fragments of phatics

Wispé, Lauren 1991. The Psychology of Sympathy. New York: Plenum Press.

Scheler gave a long, detailed treatment of emotional identification (Einfühlung), which involves an involuntary and unconscious absorption of oneself be or immersion of oneself in another. Scheler's examples include, among others, instances of the identification of preliteratue peoples with the totemic animal, hypnotism, and children's make-believe games. (Wispé 1991: 77)
Cf. G. H. Mead and identification in Burke & Zappen (2006: 338; note 10).
The importance of Scheler's idea is that one person can be so submerged in another's personality that the former has no awareness that what she or he feels is not really her or his own feeling. Many of Scheler's examples invoke almost pathological processes, but they serve as suggestions of an extreme state of emotional correspondence wherein one person loses his or her individuality without an awareness that the process is taking place. (Wispé 1991: 77)
Empathy as communization.
What Scheler referred to as community of feeling (Miteinanderfühlen) Allport (1968) called "simultaneous feeling." These are not shared feelings, but feelings in common toward an identical object. (Wispé 1991: 77)
This is where phatic communion may break away from communization. It is advisable to reconsider the dual (or even triple) orientation towards the addressee and towards the referent (the third orientation would be toward oneself, I guess).
A wife and a mistress may both feel sadness as they view the body of their loved one. Each knows what the other is probably feeling, but for each, the sadness arises from within as a function of her relationship with the object that they can both perceive. Each is experiencing her own feelings. This is not fellow feeling, as the feelings are not shared; rather, it is a common social-emotional experience. (Wispé 1991: 77)
And yet, a point for communization in Ruesch's interpretation.
The term empathy is most frequently confused with sympathy, so the differences between the two terms need not be clarified. The term empathy was coined by Tichener (1909), who wrote, "Not only do I see gravity and modesty and pride and courtesy and stateliness, but I feel them in the mind's muscle. That is, I suppose, a simple case of empathy, if we may coin that term as a rendering of Einfühlung" (p. 21). Einfühling means literally "to feel one's way into," and it had already been used in early works on aesthetics by Vishner (Wind, 1963) and in psychology by Lipps (1903, 1905). (Wispé 1991: 78)
So, originally empathy was about the referential component.
It is hard to know exactly what Lipps meant by the term empathy (Hunsdahl, 1967), but in a general sense he meant by it a tendency for perceivers to project themselves into the object of perception, and he applied it later to understanding persons. He hypothesized that we understand the feelings of others by a process of analogical inferences based on imitating the expressive movements of those in our imagination - in the "mind's muscle," as Tichener wrote. We relate the imagined movements to our own past experiences and make inferences about the other person's feelings. Allport (1961) wrote that Lipps's theory is "loaded with kinesthetic inferences" (p. 536). (Wispé 1991: 78)
It is apparent that empathy had originally a lot to do with nonverbal expression.

Richards, Ivor A. 1945. Basic English. The Modern Language Journal 29(1): 60-65.

Primarily, Basic exists for those who are not going much further into English. It is for those who need enough English for truly wide communication without needing, or being able to acquire, or keep up, more English than will decently do that job. The job is considerable. Truly wide communication covers much more than the traveler's or the business man's requirements plus supplies for "phatic communion" to use Malinowski's famous term. It covers all of an intelligent and civilized mind's general contacts with people and things, both in the world of events and the world of ideas. And that is a range of interests much wider than elementary language courses or, we may remark in sadness, language teachers, are usually concerned with. (Richards 1945: 61-62)
The take-away here is that "phatic communion" was already famous in 1945. Also, this complements those (like Nord 2007) who find that phatic utterances are relevant for translators.

Pieris, Ralph 1951. Speech and Society: A Sociological Approach to Language. American Sociological Review 16(4): 499-505.

The sociologist's interest in language is due primarily to its social effects, its role is sociation or dis-sociation. A common language is an important symbol of social solidarity. The original meaning of the Latin term barbaros was probably stammering, stuttering, babbling unintelligibly, and other peoples had similar derogatory epiteths, such as the Slaw word for German which means mute, dumb. But if a language can unify a group vis-a-vis foreigners or out-groups, it can equally reflect differentiation and divisions of interest within society. A complex official or formal group like the state or nation contains innumerable informal sub-groups which cultivate minute linguistic differences. Runyon has familiarized us with the slang of the American racketeer or "spiv." The scientific fraternity has its own distinctive speechways; a cynical diarist has left an account of a meeting of the Entomological Society, addressed by a man of "very considerable scientific attainments," in a jargon which his fellow-scientists had come to regard "as symbols of a ritual which they think it pious to accept without question." Similarly, local dialects arise in different parts of a country - the bread accents of the Yorkmanshire differ from the Londoner's quaint "cockney." (Pieris 1951: 499-500)
Whaddayaknow - the connection between phatic communion and force unifiante is palpable. It may indeed be possible to discuss the phatic-metalingual combination of functions.
Speechways are also indices of social distance between different classes of a complex society. In Great Expectations the sensitive and impressionable Pip was humiliated by Estella's slighting remarks: "He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy! ... And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!" Speech and dress distinguish this "common laboring-boy," and with incomparable artistry Dickens traces Pip's reaction to a harrowing experience when he is later made to confide, "I want to be a gentleman. ... I am not at all happy as I am. I am disgusted with my calling and with my life." In Western Europe today the dress of different social strata varies but little. The hallmark of the London "cockney" is his distinctive mode of speech. The "old school tie" may well be a hackneyed music-hall joke, but a misplaced "h" is sufficient to betray a man's breeding, his education, his social class. A social class is not demarcated by legal decree, although even in England the law does on occasion take cognizance of gentility, and "what are called high spirits in the university students on Boat Race nights becomes serious misconduct as we move east of Temple Bar." Intra-social rapport is the pullulation of behavior-patterns cultivated by persons having common interests or approximately equal statuses. In other words, certain behavior-patterns give rise to classes having a kind of esprit de corps. If there is what Sombart calls a "specifically proletarian psyche," it is the creature of social vehicles such as language. Words like "comrade" have a type of linguistic use which Malinowski labels phatic communion whereby "ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words." (Pieris 1951: 500)
This is markedly different from Jakobson's interpretation of what kind of words are phatic. It is also much closer to communization than one would expect.

McKeon, Richard 1952. Semantics, Science, and Poetry. Modern Philology 49(3): 145-159.

One widespread tendency is to distinguish science as a cognitive use of language from literature and poetry, which are emotive, and from morals and politics, which are volitive. Another tendency is to treat such distinctions as successive stages of abstraction, the analysis of language in itself in "syntax" being possible by abstraction successively from designata which are treated in "semantics" and from the user of the language who is an object of investigation in "pragmatics." (McKeon 1952: 155)
Reference to R. Carnap's Introduction to Semantics, p. 9. I guess "volitive" is this guy's term for conative. "One distinction that has been repeatedly proposed is the age-old triology of affect, cognition, and conation. Affect refers to a person's feelings toward and evaluation of some object, person, issue, or event; cognition denotes his knowledge, opinions, beliefs, and thoughts about the object; and conation refers to his behavioral intentions and his actions with respect to or in the presence of the object." (Fishbein & Ajzen 1975: 11-12) I recognize now that those guys were reiterating the same stuff that Bühler was dealing with. The common (age-old) source is still unknown, although it's probably either Plato or Aristotle.
Science, qua science, would in such an approach require syntactic and semantic, but not pragmatic, analysis, since consideration of the peculiarities and purposes of the scientist who enunciated a scientific proposition would not be relevant to its truth or falsity, whereas the characteristic analysis of poetry would fall in pragmatics and no sharp difference would separate the linguistic problems of poetry from those of politics. (McKeon 1952: 155)
Reference to C. W. Morris, Foundations of the Theory of Signs, pp. 39-40. - "Even linguistic signs have many other uses than that of communicating confirmable propositions: they may be used in many ways to control the behavior of one's self or of other users of the sign by the production of certain interpretants." - This suggestion can very well put to use in terms of phatic function: that (sometimes or some) signs are used to control not the behavior of one's self or others but the interaction between one's self and others. The phatic function - especially in the sense of establishing, prolonging or discontinuing communication - is the function that controls the communication system.
Still another tendency treats these distinctions by differentiating the uses of language according to the relations of the individuals in communication, the relations of language to the referents signified, and the relations of language to the effects evoxed. Pragmatic uses of language become a subdivision of referential uses sharply distinguished from the evocative uses of poetry, for examyle, in the classification of the uses of language into (1) phatic communion, which establishes the bond of social communities, (2) referential symbolism, which is subdivided into pure referential symbolism and pragmatic-referential symbolism, and (3) evocative symbolism, which is subdivided into literature and pseudo-literature. Whether the practical is more like the poetic or the scientific, and whether the poetic is characterized adequately as the use of language to produce emotions, to present objects of interest, or to evake experiences, the poetic use of language is distinct from the scientific. (McKeon 1952: 155)
This guy has a weird grasp of the language functions but he does point out that phatic communion is useful for building communities. It's probably beyond my capabilities but I believe it's possible to link phatics to Norbert Elias's concept of figuration. The reference after "pseudo-literature": T. C. Pollock, The Nature of Literature: Its Relation to Science, Language, and Human Experience, pp. 165-166.

James, E. O. 1957. The Nature and Function of Myth. Folklore 68(4): 474-482.

Like peoples in a primitive state of culture in regions isolated from higher civilizations, the "folk" in a modern community, until comparatively recently, to a very considerable extent lived and moved and had their being in a tradition that coloured the whole of their life. The seasonal sequence of ploughing, seedtime and harvest, of lambing and shearing, together with the cries in the human cycle of birth, marriage and death, were integral elements in their life and its occurrences constituting their essential culture and determining their way of life, thought and behaviour. They were the things by which they lived, and it is in this milieu that their lore, in so far as it has survived intact, has to be evaluated and interpreted. (James 1957: 478)
In other words, the myths of a people go a long way towards understanding their way of life.
So regarded, its function [the function of myths or lore] is to produce "phatic communion", or rapport, between members of the community; a sense of "togetherness" stimulated by common sacred utterances and actions transmitted from one generation to another in a prescribed pattern, giving order and consistency to a collective effort at specified times of festivity or lament. As the spoken word is thought to exercise supernatural power in its utterance and repetition, it gives efficacy to the actions performed and the episodes recounted as an "uttered rite". Emotional situations of continual recurrence require perpetual satisfaction and the stories told and repeated with regular precision as a seasonal performance usually relate to certain events of outstanding importance which have a permament significance in the moral, social and religious organization of society. (James 1957: 478)
So this author, too, identifies phatic communion with rapport. "A sense of togetherness" is a new one.

Breed, Warren 1958. Mass Communication and Socio-Cultural Integration. Social Forces 37(2): 109-116.

1. Besides values and kinds of behavior, we have seen that certain specified individuals receive favorable treatment: doctors, business leaders, judges, mothers, clergymen, GIs overseas, etc. This leads to the proposition that leaders personify or embody the values related to their office. Thus the media, in avoiding criticism of the incumbents, are again supporting the existing cultural structure. Contrariwise, should a leader's devation become a public scandal, it is possible that a "domino effect" will endanger faith in the institution he represents as well. Whether people respond to such a failing in specific or diffuse ways is an empirical question; exploratory interviews suggests that both occur. For example, to sucha a "shattering" question as "What would you think if you discovered the Archbishop had a harem?" some respondents expressed shock about the individual only, others said they might question all religion, and one respondent point the way to anomie: "If they can do it, everybody can." The Hollywood production code follows the diffuse theory: "The reason why ministers of religion may not be comic characters or villains is simply because the attitude taken toward them may easily become the attitude toward religion in general". (Breed 1958: 116)
This was written almost 15 years before the Watergate scandal which reportedly changed the public opinion about the president's office. Today a similar process seems to be taking place in relation with America's National Football League (NFL).
2. The values of religion, as Durkheim said, are linked to social processes taking the form of ritual. Durkheim maintained that rituals, with their repeated, rhythmic, tangible form served to concretize and reinforce religious beliefs. While the analogy is far from perfect, it may be that the mass media also, by the repeated, patterned "ritual" of their dissemination - every month or week, day, hour, etc. - serve a similar function in the conservation of socio-cultural resources. One comes to expect a certain joke from Jack Benny, a "Tiny Tym" story at Christmas, a boy-gets-girl story in magazine and movie, etc. People may not so much "learn" from the media as they become accustamed to a standardized ritual. (Breed 1958: 116)
In Ogden and Richards's version ritualized formulas like "Good morning!" similarly are not so much informative as they are merely suitable. This leads to an interpretation of phatics as a cultural function (e.g. the phatic function of culture texts).
3. In this sense of discretion, we can perceive a similarity between mass communication and personal communication. Tact, the use of the white lie, and the studied avoidance of stating unpleasant facts may be characteristic of all social (as distinguished from scientific) communication. Perfection is a severe model for human behavior, and the use of discretion enables the structure of relationships - however genuine - to survive in the face of strain. What Malinowski called "phatic communion" can thus also be found in formal mass communications. (Breed 1958: 116)
Yet another connection between relationships and phatic communion.

Warriner, Charles K. 1965. The Problem of Organizational Purpose. The Sociological Quarterly 6(2): 139-146.

Thus to define purpose we must deal with the assumed functions or consequences of the several activities of an organization. In focusing upon the assumed functions as the criterion of purpose we differentiate purpose from function and through this we reintroduce the concept of purpose as a source for order and direction in what the organization does. (Warriner 1965: 144)
From Bühler's "semantic functions of language structures" to Jakobson's "language functions" and now just "assumed functions".
Although specific organizational purposes can be identified in this fashion, we found that these distinctions were too refined for our purposes. For example, it appeared of little consequence that the activities of one club were to enable the members to play bridge and in another to play pinochle or poker, particularly when we are constrasting them with service clubs, fraternities, or study clubs. (Warriner 1965: 144)
The language functions are too refined for anything except speech or discourse analysis.
We therefore focused upon the general kinds of values inherent in activities. Four such value functions of activities can be identified: (1) The performance pleasure function. Activities may serve primarily as pleasure-giving in themselves, for examyle, dancing. (2) The sociability function. Activities may be important primarily as a vehicle for interaction. For example, in some bridge clubs, the game is merely an excuse for getting together, and the bidding and the play are sacrificed to demands of chatting, gossip, phatic communion, or argument. (Warriner 1965: 144)
(1) The poetic/aesthetic function; (2) the phatic/social function. Notice that Warriner expands it in a certain sense by pointing out, as Malinowski did, that phatic communion may go hand in hand with some practical activity.
(3) The symbolic function. Activities may be important primarily as a ritual or ceremonial act in which each part of the set and the activity set as a whole stand for or represent some belief system. The representation and reaffirmation of these beliefs are the central functions of the activities: for example, invocations at meetings, the communion service in churches, and many rituals in fraternal organizations. (Warriner 1965: 144)
You may emphasize the symbolic function of rituals just as well as the phatic function of rituals.
(4) The productive function. Activities may be important because they produce some product or service or bring about a change in something, and it is this product or service which is desired or valued. It may be useful further to subdivide these productive functions according to the consumer of the product or service - e.g., the members individually, the members collectively, the organization itself, clients or customers, the community. (Warriner 1965: 144)
But where are the rest? Are there no organizations with primarily conative function? I'd think that institutions that control the behaviour of people are such organizations. The police, for example, is quite conative. Otherwise it's a neat outline that may aid nonverbalizing the language function.

Whiteley, W. H. 1966. Social Anthropology, Meaning and Linguistics. Man, New Series, 1(2): 139-157.

Malinowski could not be described as a descriptive linguist in the technical sense in which the term is now understood, but he made a number of illuminating observations on the function of language in Trobriand society and on the problems of meaning generally. Writing at a time when the function of language was widely conceived in terms of its capacity to convey thought, Malinowski was quickly made aware, in his observations on fishing, trading and gardening, of the importance of language as 'a mode of social action rather than a mere reflection of thought' (1923: 247). He was also much impressed by the use of language in 'free, aimless, social intercourse' and suggested for this the term 'phatic communion', by which he wished to stress the establishment and maintenance of social ties by a set of verbal conventions. While such views served as a valuable corrective to current views of language, and quickly became part of a new orthodoxy, it is his view of meaning, derived from the use of ethnographic texts, which is perhaps of greater interest, though he was by no means the first to make use of texts in this way. It was clear to Malinowski that such terms and expressions which related to ceremonies, ritual, social institutions and beliefs could not be translated by some hazarded equivalent but needed to be described by reference to the total social context in which they occurred; thus 'Exactly as in the reality of spoken or written languages, a word without linguistic context is a mere figment and stands for nothing but itself, so in the reality of a spoken living tongue, the utterance has no meaning except in the context of situation' (1923: 240). This illuminating concept was never developed fully by Malinowski bit it was taken over and developed by his contemporary in London, the late J. R. Firth, who incorporated it into his own contextual theory of meaning. (Whiteley 1966: 144)
Whiteley is already informed by Jakobson's interpretation, which quickly became a new orthodoxy of its own.

Hymes, Dell 1971. The Contribution of Folklore to Sociolinguistic Research. The Journal of American Folklore 84(331): 42-50.

The situation has not been seen for what it is partly because we are accustomed to generalize statements as to the functions of language, commonplaces as to the great importance of language in general. These commonplaces do us a disservice. Praising language in general, they obscure the need to study just what functions it does have in particular cases. They lead us to act as though language has the same function in every community (indeed, that all languages have the same functions and that each community has just one language having these functions). The fcats are otherwise. Hockett, for example, generalizes, "The story-teller must be a fluent and effective speaker. ..." But among the Gbeya of Central Africa no one is regarded as skilled in narration. Malinowski has stressed "phatic communion," talking for the sake of talking. The Wishram Chinook of the Columbia River take just the opposite view; one does not talk when one has nothing that needs to be said. Sapir has written of the tendency to fill up one's world with language; but among the Paliyans of South India, by the age of forty men are reported to speak almost not at all, and a communicative person is regarded with suspicion. Often one reads of the role of language in the transmission of culture, the social heritage, but among many peoples the great bulk of adult roles and skills are transmitted nonverbally. (Hymes 1971: 43-44)
Despite the negative attitude towards phatic communion I like this passage very much. Maybe I should list the definitions of phatic communion I have found?

Asad, Talal 1979. Anthropology and the Analysis of Ideology. Man 14(4): 607-627.

In fact, many of the basic assumptions and concerns of more recent writers influenced by the study of language can be traced back to Malinowski, not only of those writers who have been happy to acknowledge the connexion, but also of many who have not. Malinowski's critics, ranging from linguists such as J. R. Firth (1957) and Langendoen (1968) to the publicists for a New Anthropology like Ardener (1971), Henson (1974) and Crick (1976), have largely seen in Malinowski a failed language-theorist. One is often given to understand that despite his commendable emphasis on the importance of learning native languages for fieldwork, Malinowski has no real understanding of advanced language theory. He is dismissed by anthropologists like Sahlins (1976) for his crass utilitarianism, or noted briefly by linguists like Lyons (1968) as someone who contributed that quaint but not entirely valueless notion, 'phatic communion', to semantic theory. That Malinowski's texts on language also contain an anthropological theory of culture (which is not, by the way, to be confused with his theory of basic and derived needs), has gone generally unnoticed. (Asad 1979: 608)
Phatic communion is "quaint" indeed.

Meyers, Robert B. 1980. Pragmatic Interpretation. boundary 2 8(3): 115-140.

The speaker's act, inviting inquiry by means of a "Strategy," is undertaken because the speaker feels at the moment, for whatever reasons, that a more direct and forthright act is inappropriate. Such a "Strategy" might be used in a case in which the speaker did not feel properly disposed to the listener to convey to him accusatory "information." Indeed, because talk always occurs in a web of interconnections which constitute the social context, "statements" are rarely just neutral statements. The speaker who does not attend to this fact of social reality suffers the consequences. The speaker shapes his statements into acts appropriate to the context of social-moral interconnections in which he finds himself. Even the simple sharing of banalities, Malinowski's "phatic communion", has social-moral meaning far more important than the content of the talk. (Meyers 1980: 123)
The most negative definition of phatic communion yet.

Definitions of phatic communion

  • a type of linguistic use whereby "ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words." (Pieris 1951: 500)
  • [a use of language] which establishes the bond of social communities (McKeon 1952: 155)
  • [the function that produces] rapport between members of the community; a sense of "togetherness" stimulated by common sacred utterances and actions (James 1957: 478)
  • [the use of language that] enables the structure of relationships - however genuine - to survive in the face of strain (Breed 1958: 116)
  • [the function of an activity as] merely an excuse for getting together, [for] chatting, gossip [...] or argument (Warriner 1965: 144)
  • the establishment and maintenance of social ties by a set of verbal conventions (Whiteley 1966: 144)
  • talking for the sake of talking (Hymes 1971: 43-44)
  • the simple sharing of banalities (Meyers 1980: 123)


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