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FRAGL 1: Comparing drinking toasts – Comparing ethnopragmatics

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Kotthoff, Helga

Helga Kotthoff


In this article I discuss drinking toasts given in cultures that attach great importance to this genre in everyday life (Georgia, Russia, Sweden) and toasts given by guests from countries where the genre is less important (Germany, the Netherlands). I show that Georgian toasts entail the most elaborate and a very specific performance. In comparison, Russian and Swedish toasts are simpler, even though there are many similarities. Beyond a formula such as “cheers” and clinking glasses toasts in all three countries communicate moral values, combine poetics with conversation (see Knoblauch & Kotthoff 2001, Norrick 2002) and “do culture” (in an ethnomethodological sense). When performing toasts in these countries, foreign visitors often deviate from local cultural norms, but this is not problematic, provided they comply with the minimal genre standards (such as expressing the central formula of the na zdarovie-type at the end) and with those of ‘positive politeness’ in Goffman’s sense (1967).

Keywords: toast, communicative genre, performative agency, politeness, interculture, rituality.

A revised version of this article appeard 2013, edited by Cornelia Gerhard in the volume "Culinary Linguistics" with Benjamins Publishing House, Amsterdam

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