Universal and Culture-Specific Properties of Greetings



The literature on greetings includes several commonly made claims that require an agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a greeting exchange. I propose six criteria for identifying greetings across languages and speech communities. Applying these criteria to a speech community in Western Samoa, I identify four types of greeting exchanges there. These exchanges show, contra claims in the greetings literature, that not all greetings are devoid ofpropositional content and that they need not be "expressive" acts of the type proposed by speech act theory. In greetings, Samoans accomplish various social acts, including searching for new information and sanctioning social behavior.