If someone says, "Thank you," and another one responds, "You're welcome," does the response deny, cancel, or balance out a reciprocity or an exchange? Does it mean the one who thanks is welcome again to avail, receive, or ask for favor? Does the one who responds mean what he says or is he culturally conditioned linguistically to say "You're welcome" if he hears someone say "Thank you"? Is the "thank you-and-you're welcome" dialogue, in itself, a reciprocity of acts and an exchange of expressions?
Among Filipinos, when someone says "Salamat" (Thanks), the expected response is "Walang anuman" (No anything). Even though the response sounds negative, it negates nothing. "Utang na loob" (debt of gratitude) stays untouched. It cannot be cancelled or denied by expressions Malinowski (1923) and Jacobson (1960) called pathic. "Pathic expression" in contemporary parlance is "small talk." Only exchange (palitan) can cancel, deny, and balance out reciprocity (gantihan). "Sumbat" (reminding or counting), an insulting act where a benefactor reminds and counts what he has given to a beneficiary, calls for a payment or payback value-for-value. If the beneficiary cannot pay or do the equivalent exchange, he can return what he has received. So, exchanging and returning gifts cancel reciprocity.
Reciprocity in the Philippines has no specific language or expression, since it is an informal, unsaid, and unspecified form of interaction where giving and receiving are involved. If one gives or does someone a gift or a favor, it is expected and understood that the latter should reciprocate to the former whatever and however he wants in the future. Exchange is a different story. "Deal," "quits," "barter," "trade," and "exchange" have entered our lingua franca for exchange, especially in business and gambling. They are used when a value-for-value deal is reached. "Exchange tayo ng number" means "Let's give each other's phone number." "Barter tayo ng sapatos." is "Let's trade your shoes with mine." "Quits na tayo." translates to "We're now okay." or "There's no more between us."
Among male participants, they use "usapang lalake" (gentleman's talk) together with a handshake to mean that they have to stick to what they agree. Exchange also includes blatant negating statements such as "Bayad na ako." (I'm paid off.), "Patas na tayo." (We're now equal or balanced.), and "Wala na akong utang." (I have no more debt.) said after the conclusion of a deal or finalization of an agreement . Such statements are also used when a reciprocity is ended by an exchange. For example, if a friend makes "sumbat" by telling me that he gave me a shirt before, I'll feel insulted and be compelled to buy him a shirt similar to what he gave or return what he gave me if I still haven't used it. I'll then use a negating expression or statement for exchange since our reciprocal relationship is over. Naturally, I will say it with a hint of anger and disappointment.
"Walang anuman," the Tagalog equivalent of "welcome," doesn't have an exact communicated meaning or transferred information. It's said automatically the moment "salamat" (Thank you) is heard. Filipinos are culturally conditioned to say it as a response. "Walang anuman" doesn't mean anything specifically. Some don't even understand what it really means, but they use it. Its literal meaning, "No anything," is vague. Its function is to give voice to an act of recognizing a grateful person who thanks. It completes the social interaction. It's the saying that counts not what's being said. Besides, if one doesn't want to verbally respond, he can resort to gestures by nodding or moving his hands.
Americans, for a small talk that's also a greeting, say, "How's it going?" The natural response is: "Good." Again, they're culturally conditioned to say the usual response although the interrogative greeting is unclear. What is "it"? Is it a person that is good or one of the things he is doing that is going good? "What's up?" and What's new?" are usually answered automatically with "Not much" or "Nothing much." "What's up?" for example, is culture-specific. If translated to Tagalog, it's "Anong nangyari?" a question only nosy people itching for gossips ask. It seems to me vague grateful or greeting expressions are exchanged with vague responses, and an act of thanking or greeting is reciprocated with an act of acknowledging or responding back. Generally, expressions are for exchange and acts are for reciprocity, where a responded act of greeting, for instance, can be a beginning of a long, meaningful relationship, if done right.