Small talk – a work of frame

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The academic interest for social relationships and the way they are organized in dialogues can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century, once Malinowski (1923) first suggested that human share “phatic communion”. The British anthropologist focused his studies on local tribes from Oceania and closely analyzed their interaction. In studies on small talk (Laver 1975; Coupland, Coupland, Robinson 1992; Eggins, Slade 1997; Coupland 2000; Jaworski 2000; McCarthy 2003; Mirivel, Tracy 2005), the authors closely analyzed phatic sequences (initial or final) or full phatic conversations, but the concept was not clearly and fully defined. In the first part of this paper, I will review some theories on interpersonal communication so that I could suggest an integrating definition for small talk. In the second part, I will analyze the way in which phatic communion is constructed at work, and more specifically during workplace meetings and in other professional settings.


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