Sequential and interpersonal aspects of English and Greek answering machine messages

Dionysis Goutsos


The paper studies the genre of answering machine messages (AMMs) in English and Greek from a comparative linguistic perspective. The analysis of extensive data in both languages shows that the length of most AMMs is restricted (25 to 30 words) and related to the gender of the caller rather than the language used. It is also found that Greek and English AMMs follow the same generic pattern, consisting of three main phases (opening, main body and closing) and their sub-parts. Messages in the two languages mainly differ with respect to the optional and obligatory parts they allow in the pattern, their respective order within the main phases and the particular signals used. Thus, a generic pattern for AMMs can be established across the two languages as emerges from the use of specific signals of sequential relations. At the same time, AMMs in both languages show a central interpersonal concern for creating a dialogic sphere of communication by incorporating the absent recipient’s participation. Sequential patterns in this genre are thus intimately interrelated with the interpersonal aspects of communication.

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