Negotiating a passage to the meal in four cultures

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Food plays a central role in hospitality in virtually every culture on earth. Eating together – “commensality” is perhaps one of the most basic human social acts, and is imbued with a special ritual quality.  In this paper I show that there are several stages that participants in commensality pass through from the outside world to the communal meal. The passage from stage to stage is effected through the use of linguistic/ behavioral routines that I call “pragmemic triggers.” The form of these triggers is different for different societies, but their structure and use is the same. To demonstrate this, I compare the passage to the meal in four widely dispersed cultures: Middle East, Japanese, German and American.


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