Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 16:42:55 -0400


Subject: Re: sociolinguistic competence

I just now read the flurry of messages responding to my rejection of

Melissa's claim that politeness has declined. Ellen has said exactly

what I had intended to say: We need _empirical evidence_ (which is

also culturally contextualized, as other respondents have noted) for

change-through-time claims; anecdotal impressions just won't do! (And

what does it mean to say that "people don't care for society anymore,"

or to relate this to the question of what it is to be an American???)

On "Bless you" specifically: It is of course intended as a "tail wag"

(referred to generally as phatic communication). But the presumed

sharing of a religious/theological frame of reference is what I react

to when I remain silent--not angrily but as a kind of quiet protest.

The German "Gesundheit" is more acceptable to me, since it only means

"Good health," but of course few know it or use it anymore.

Next week I'll be talking in my Sociolinguistics class about politeness

and face and how they're culturally contextualized and empirically

observable. Students will do small field-based projects--I'll let you

know if they come up with startling new discoveries!