talacowa kiso?

as someone with interests in pragmatics, one of the first things that catches me about speech communities is the ways that they greet each other, the questions like “how are you?” which are phatics more than questions. in the niyaro’ the use of such phrases bids you to recognize that you belong–and, by extension, the speaker belongs–to a group of people about which they and you have concern. so these small chatty kinds of phrases can have ethical weight, depending on whether, which ones, and how they are used

thus when i began to learn hoklo, it took me awhile to realize that khia ban-e was not a literal instruction to ride my bike more slowly, but actually a “take care…bye bye” sort of phrase

similarly, although the first thing people try to tell you about sowal no ‘amis is that the way to greet people is “nga’ay ho,” one quickly realizes that the phrase is not in common usage–you not likely to hear it in the niyaro’, except in interactions, often connected to political rituals, in which one interacts with outsiders. you don’t hear nga’ay ho that much otherwise

instead, people passing by on scooters or even in their cars shout out, talacowa kiso? but scoot on. it’s not really asking about where you are going. similarly, pa:cerem kiso! 這麼早! suggests that one is out and about earlier than usual, but it just bids you recognize that you are socially related: we should care about where we are going and how early it is. around mealtimes, one can be sure to hear people calling out to each other, “going to dinner?” these greetings turn public space into social space, something subtly different

ok…so maybe i am intellectualizing what i really want to say today. back in the niyaro’ i feel a kind of happiness and attachment because there are so many people whom i need to ask, “talacowa kiso?” and so many people who shout at me, “zhema zao! pacerem kiso!” isn’t this the way we know that our relationships are thick ones and not the thin ones in which one says, “how do you do?”

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