Il complimento nelle culture orientate socialmente. Il caso di Baselice

Marina Castagneto, Letizia Italiano


The present study aims to explore compliments and compliment responses used by Italian language speakers based in Baselice (BN), a small city in Southern Italy. The participants live in a strongly cohesive linguistic community within a collectivistic and high-context culture. In such a context, in which much emphasis is placed on interpersonal relationships, on the mutual face and the Connection Face (Arundale 2006), compliments are considered a verbal gift and are welcomed, therefore they tend to be frequently accepted. In responding to them, the interactants use few recurring conversational patterns, displaying the same words in an identical linear order. By analysing the distribution of specific compliment responses, as ironic acceptance, it can be extrapolated that Baselice’s linguistic community is stratified by gender. On the ethnolinguistic side, the corpus shows that in Baselice compliments on specific topics, such as children or food in preparation, are felt as dangerous, because they should cast evil eye on the complimented topic or on the complimentees themselves. The protective measure against fascination is to include the formula lu bǝnǝdicǝ (“God bless him”) in the compliment; in the case the complimenters forgets to do so, the other interactants will encourage them to repeat the compliment. In this way, the potential effects of evil eye will be averted and the face-balancing will not be damaged either. It can be suggested that the power of conversational negotiation in Baselice is stronger than the evil eye.

Parole chiave

Compliment; Ethnolinguistics; Pragmatics; Conversation analysis

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