Proximics: Evidence from Moroccan culture
Part Two: 2-2-Social Status of Individuals
Another equally important factor that affects distance and causes its variation is the social status of the interacting individuals: the fact that an individual , has a certain rank entitles him to be treated in a special way by his subordinates, his equals, and his superiors for choice of our verbal and non verbal channels of communication depends on the relation ship we have with our interlocutor in this regard Hudson says” mast particularly the power and solidarity manifested in that relation ship” (p: 24).
2-2-1. A Superior.
A superior interlocutor is one with a higher social status than his addresses. A teacher is superior to his students or pupils, he can in turn be inferior to headmaster or a dean in an interaction. The relationship superior speaker has with his inferior interlocutor is a relationship: The inferior interacting person is superior to watch for his verbal as well as his non verbal behaviour when interacting with his superior. He should show formality by keeping a formal distance from his superior interlocutor. The subordinate interlocutor can not withdraw from formality until his superior permits it; otherwise, he will be considered rude and impolite.
A employer informant says that as a subordinate to his employer he recognizes that he should not interaction with him in the same way as he does with other employees who are equal to him, but he should keep wider space from him than from his equals. However, a student informant says that superior does not exist, for him all human beings are equal so he does not bother changing distance from close to far in his interaction. He admits that he sometimes faces problems created by his superior interlocutor who expecting to be treated with informality may punish him; nevertheless he continues behaving in the same way whoever is his interlocutor. Four other student informants oppose him, they find this claim too exaggerated because differences in power exist among people of all societies and these differences are either expressed verbally or by other non-verbal channels of communication.
2-2-2- A Subordinate
A subordinate interlocutor is lower in rank or importance than the speaker. For instance, an employee is subordinate to his employer, and a student is subordinate to the teacher the teacher himself may in turn is subordinate to his interlocutor other her situations such as the case of the teacher-headmaster relationship: accordingly distance changes from a situation to other depending on the relationship between the interacting individual or what Hudson calls “power and solidarity”.
In a power relation ship either the speaker or the interlocutor is subordinate. Let us consider the case of a subordinate interlocutor. Variation of distance in this case depends on the superior’s personality: he may be one of those superiors who enjoy power, he will consequently stand far away in an interaction with his subordinate interlocutor in order not to show any degree of intimacy. This superior is never expected to tolerate any attempt of intimacy from his subordinate interlocutor, as Wilfred d’souza says “communicating not only rejection of intimacy, but also control over a larger sphere of space around the self” (Quioted in Hodge 1981: 49).
The superior speaker may also be one who does not insist on asserting his authority. He may easily accept his subordinate to stand closer to him in interaction or he even asks him to come closer. He makes him feel at ease and avoids embarrassing him by reminding him that he talks to a superior.
A student informant from “Arabic department of university Moulay Ismail” says that such superiors are most of the time intellectual and educated people such as teachers, headmasters, or deans. He gives the instance of an interaction he had once with a teacher who treated him in a friendly way and talked to him in a closer space. The superior speaker then dominates the interaction and has the choice of being either cold and informal, or warm and friendly.
An equal interlocutor has many things in common with the speaker. That is to say, these two interacting individuals may have the same age and the same occupation, consequently they may have an intimate relationship similarly to the relationship a person has with the members of his family. These equal interacting individuals may be for exemple both pupils, both students or both teachers like our informants. They say they use intimate distance in interaction and sometimes casual distance when the interlocutor is equal to him the shorter the distance he keeps in interaction because he believes that he can never be misunderstood by his equal friend. Two other student informants state that in their interaction with other equal students, they feel relaxed and friendly: their speech is colloquial and their space is rather intimate.
As a matter of fact, the individual feels no need to be formal when the interlocutor is of equal status and therefore he does not bother about being too polite. Four student informants say that it will be ridiculous to be stiff and formal when interacting with equals; otherwise, the interacting person will be communicating rejection and unfriendliness for interaction with equals unlike interaction with superiors does not involve any degree of formality. Four other student informants say that they can never shift from an intimate distance to a formal distance when interacting with an equal because such behaviour seems to them odd.