Language and Relationships

Innuendo is indirect speech, it could also be called veiled speech.

The forms of communication where indirect speech is most often used are:


Why are these veiled when both parties presumably know exactly what they mean? Because if you don't know what they mean, they don't work.
It turns out it's because we have to convey meaning while also negotiating a relationship type.

To do this people use language at two levels. They use the literal form to signal the safest relationship to the listener while counting on the listener to read between the lines to entertain a proposition that might be incompatible with that relationship

ex.: Politeness is about using the imperative (do this for me) without the presumption of dominance (I'm not trying to command you).

According to Alan Fiske, there are only three major human relationship types when using the following criteria:

Each prescribes a distinct way of distributing resources.
Each has a distinct evolutionary basis.
Each applies most naturally to certain people, but can be extended through negotiation. Enter language!

1. Dominance = don't mess with me
2. Communality = share and share alike extended to kin, spouses, and close friends
3. Reciprocity = businesslike exchange of goods and services

So, I'm curious if this is true. Let's list every kind of relationship we can think of and see, do they fit into these categories? Are there more kinds of relationships than these?

What kinds of behaviour are appropriate in each form of relationship?

A behaviour that's comfortable in one relationshp type is often anomalous in another.
ex. 1 You'd take food off your friend's plate but not your boss' (communality and dominance clash)
ex. 2 Paying your host for dinner (communality and reciprocity clash)

This relates to the $500 for the airport ride issue. (From a few discussions back: Why is it socially inappropriate to pay your friend for a ride to the airport?)
What are some other examples where something that's okay one place is not okay in another?

Why do we resort to indirectness?

Individual Knowledge = I know it. You know it.
Mutual Knowledge = We all know that we all know. It is known.

Innuendoes keeps communication on the level of individual knowledge.
Pointing this stuff out changes the state of everyone's knowledge--explicit language creates mutual knowledge.

Is this why Chinese culture often uses indirectness to save face?(indicating the safest relationship to the listener!)
Is it related to the Chinese distaste for revolution and social upset?

Relationship types are maintained or nullified by a mutual knowledge of the relationship type.