One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Denoting or relating to language used for general purposes of social interaction, rather than to convey information or ask questions. Utterances such as hello, how are you? and nice morning, isn't it? are phatic.
- ‘But there are many instances where the address carries no more specific a meaning than is conveyed by ‘lovely days, isn't it ’, what the linguists call phatic utterances.’
- ‘The patterns of exchange characteristic of chats are phatic, and their primary purpose is to get and maintain a social link.’
- ‘I made a phatic utterance that sounded something like ‘uhmmhmm.’’
- ‘It is easy to imagine that characters frequently urge each other to ‘come’ do this or that or simply ‘come,’ where these phatic or merely gestural uses are much rarer in poetry.’
- ‘Roman Jakobson defines the phatic as a ‘contact function’ in language, ‘serving primarily to establish, to prolong, or to discontinue communication’ between speaker and interlocutor.’
1920s: from Greek phatos ‘spoken’ or phatikos ‘affirming’.
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