Object of compliment

What do speakers compliment on? Are there entities or “goods” that are more often complimented on than others?

Holmes’ (1988, 1995) definition of a compliment refers to some “good” for which credit is attributed to the addressee (Personal compliment). As examples she lists possession, characteristic and skill. Normally, such questions are not asked in isolation but in connection with other research questions. Holmes, for instance, combines the question about the object of the compliment with the question about who pays and receives the compliment.
She found, for instance, that women compliment each other on appearance more than on any other topic, while compliments on possessions are used significantly more often between males. And compliments to those of different status tend to focus on skills or performance (Holmes 1988, 1995) (see Object – Field – Diary, but also Who/where/when – Field – Diary)

For a discussion of the suitability of different research methods for this particular set of questions see: