Who/where/when – Field – Diary

Holmes (1988, 1995) uses the diary method to investigate compliments in New Zealand. She uses the approach pioneered by Manes and Wolfson (1981) (Patterns – Field – Diary). But Holmes uses the data for different research questions. She is not primarily interested in the surface patterns of the compliments but in the identity of the complimenter and of the compliment recipient. A breakdown of the total of 484 compliments in her collection provides the statistics given in Table 1.

Complimenter-Recipient Number %
Female-Female 248   51.2
Female-Male   80   16.5
Male-Female 112   23.1
Male-Male   44     9
Total 484 100

Table 1: Number of compliments according to gender of complimenter and recipient (Holmes 1988: 449, 1995: 123)

According to this table women are far more likely to receive compliments than men. They received almost 75 per cent of all the compliments in the collection. However, it has to be noted, as Holmes (1988: 450) points out, that the majority of the compliment collectors was also female. This clearly had an effect in the compliments they collected. A breakdown of the compliments according to collector suggests that the effect still survives for both male and female collectors. But there was not enough data collected by male researchers to confirm this suggestion.

Cordella, Large and Pardo (1995) also use the diary method to compare compliments in Australian English and in Spanish. They collected 148 Australian English compliments and 40 Spanish ones. They followed the pattern set by Manes and Wolfson (1981) but in their case only three female researchers collected the compliments. While the group of Australian English complimenters and compliment recipients was relatively homogeneous, the group of Spanish participants consisted of speakers of Spanish of different nationalities. They came from Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, and the majority of them had lived in Australia for more than fifteen years.

Cordella, Large and Pardo (1995: 239) record a predominance of compliments by female complimenters and female recipients, but they note that this may be a result of the gender of the collectors. In the majority of cases, apparently, the collectors were also the recipients of the recorded compliment. But they also set out to provide evidence for the bulge theory. Compliments are most frequent among friends, and they are less frequent for intimates and strangers. (see also Object – Field – Diary)