Phatic expressions

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Strategies for common types like greetings, etc.. Per Talk:Phatic expressions and social conventions, keep it very general, and avoid making lists or using {{Example}}.

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A phatic expression is a word or phrase that mainly serves a social function instead of exchanging information.

Tokiponists mainly define phatics as ritualized, normative lines in social scripts, with an emphasis on those that are idiomatic or devoid of semantic value. This definition includes greetings, expressions of etiquette, and expected responses. In Toki Pona, phatic expressions of this sort are flexible at best, and often discouraged.

By other definitions, phatic speech can include rote expressions with literal semantic meaning; speech concerning the communication channel; or small talk. These are common in Toki Pona, although the social norms around small talk may differ.

Anti-idiomaticity[edit | edit source]

An example of idiomatic phatic expressions in English is the exchange, "How are you?"—"I'm fine, thank you".[a] Nonliteral phatics like these are not universally understood or accepted between cultures, languages, or neurotypes. Their obligatory nature may create confusion about intent, put the recipient in an awkward position, or simply make the sentiment ring hollow.[b][1]

Toki Pona philosophy actively discourages idiomatic phatic expressions. This is out of simplicity, cultural universality, and context-geared expressivity. As a practical example, one common Toki Pona equivalent to "How are you?", sina seme?, is meant literally and allows an open-ended answer, which can be real and detailed if the responder wants. Idiomatic phrases would also be a form of lexicalization, which itself is avoided.

An arguable exception is the phrase o moku e kala pona, lit. 'Eat (a) good fish', an idiomatic farewell. However, this is more of an obscure cultural reference or inside joke that is unlikely to catch on as a general goodbye, with several more literal phrases in common use instead.

pu[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona: The Language of Good includes a "Phrase Book" section with some suggestions for phatic expressions. In practice, these are not fixed in form, with many speakers preferring vocative sentences to sentence-fragment interjections, and there are not prominent social norms demanding the use of such phrases.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. This is not a serious inquiry or answer into how one fares, but a conventional greeting and response.
  2. In the "How are you?" example, imagine if the responder were not "fine" and wanted to talk about it, but recognized that the greeter didn't actually care how they were doing; or if something made them unsure whether it was a greeting or a serious question!

References[edit | edit source]

English Wikipedia has an article on
phatic expressions.
  1. Fochti et al. "Phatic expression". ActuallyAutistic Wiki. Retrieved 3 May 2024.