LINGUIST List 11.2745

Mon Dec 18 2000

Sum: Use of Address Forms

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Yuko Taniguchi, survey on address forms

Message 1: survey on address forms

Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 12:28:50 -0000
From: Yuko Taniguchi <>
Subject: survey on address forms

I posted an inquiry for the survey on address forms to the Linguist List on 28 of October
2000(11.2333). Below is the summary of the survey I would like to share;

Yuko Taniguchi
- ------------

Summary of the Survey

I posted an inquiry for the survey on address forms to the Linguist List on 28 of October
2000(11.2333). I thank the following people who responded to my inquiry and returned the 
survey I sent to them. All of them gave me very helpful examples and comments on address 
forms in many aspects. 

E. Bashir
Claire Bowern
Daniel Buncic 
Karen Courtenay
Pilar Garcia-Donoso
John Dunnion
Burgel Rosa Maria Faehndrich
Anna Fenyvesi
Mai Kuha
James B. Long
Katalin Mády
Fiona Macarthur Purdon
Dominique Lagorgette
Antonia Rothmayr
Andrew Wilcox
Margaret E. Winters
(The names above correspond to how they were actually written in their e-mail messages �
Euro" some of them put surnames first, whereas others put given names first.) 
The survey included questions: (1) what address forms are used between teachers and 
students and between students and students in classroom and (2) By what address forms the respondents are addressed in various situations in daily life. 

In the survey I use the terms first name (FN) and last name (LN) following studies 
previously done in this topic. However, this caused confusion to some respondents. In 
some languages including Chinese, Hungarian, Korean and Japanese (my L1), people put what
is generally called a �Euro~last name�Euro(tm) before a �Euro~first name�Euro(tm). 
Therefore, I will use a given name (GN) and a surname (SN) hereafter instead of a first 
name and a last name in this summary. The following is a summary of the survey.

I. Address forms carry cultural information

The respondents provided various examples in different linguistic environments. The 
examples given by the respondents include English (UK, US, Ireland, Australia), German 
(Austria, Germany), Spanish (Spain, Ecuador), French, Greek, Hungarian, Urdu, Swahili, 
Bambara, Ibo, Japanese, Russian, Turkish and an Australian Aboriginal Language. All the 
respondents have used one or more of the above languages in daily life 

As you can see from my question (1) above, the survey was originally intended to find out
the uses of address form in classroom. However, some respondents have suggested that it 
would be difficult to define �Euro~classroom�Euro(tm) context in terms of linguistic 
environment �Euro" There were several instances in which Language A is chosen as the 
language of instruction (even in non-language classes) in an environment where Language B
is used. 

The responses have also shown that languages of address forms would not always correspond
to the linguistic environment where the address forms are used. There was an example of a
Hungarian woman who is addressed by her father with a Hungarian diminutive form of her 
name in Hungary but her mother (she is a Russian) addresses her by a Russian diminutive 

This flexibility of the address form use is partly due to the fact that address forms are
single units in interaction. The small units can be more easily used in different 
linguistic environment. In other words, this flexibility is a reason why address forms 
carry certain cultural information even within a different linguistic environment. 

In addition, address forms, as single units in interaction, can be even easily modified 
as `hybrid forms�Euro(tm). Particularly it appears in the responses concerning foreign 
language learners. A respondent said that English learners of Spanish speakers would use 
title-GN (e.g., `Miss-Anne�Euro(tm)) when they address teachers who are native English 
speakers: This seems to result from Spanish speaker�Euro(tm)s L1 address forms 
(Don/Dona-GN), which reinterprets the use of Miss/Mrs/Mr. There was also a similar 
example in Greek.

II. The most commonly used address forms: Given names

Given names are the single most commonly used address forms appeared across languages (or
I may say across cultures) in the responses. Although the way in which given names are 
used in each language varies, there is a general tendency of how given names are used: 
(1) when a speaker and a hearer have known each other and formality required between them
is relatively little or (2) when a speaker is in a higher position (in terms of 
social/academic order or age difference) than a hearer so that the speaker can choose an 
option of address forms (in this case GN) for the hearer more freely.
III. Address forms in classroom
A. Address form avoidance

Address form avoidance is one feature of address form use, and several respondents have 
provided such examples. In a lecture class where class size is big, the teacher would 
rarely address students by name (Computer science class--Ireland). As teachers�Euro(tm) 
address form avoidance strategy, the teachers would avoid the use of address forms by 
saying, �Eurooe`Sorry, I don�Euro(tm)t know your name but could you tell me�Euro�
�Euro(tm) or avoiding them completely saying `next please�Euro(tm), or `You in the back 
row�Euro(tm) �Eurooe(EFL class--Spain). As an example of students�Euro(tm) avoidance, 
�EuroA couple of students �Euro� do not address me at all, �Euro�. For instance, if they 
raise their hand and are recognised, they will begin with `How do�Euro��Euro(tm) rather 
than, `Jim, how do�Euro��Euro(tm)�Euro(ESL classroom-- US). As another example, the 
undergraduate students (in the US) who did not ask what they should address the 
instructors either avoided address forms or used Dr-SN or sometimes Mrs-SN, when they 
call her on the phone (Linguistics class--US). 

There are two facets in address form avoidance to teachers in English: (1) the students 
are not sure which address form (Dr. Professor, Mr. Mrs) is appropriate to a particular 
teacher as his/her personal information, e.g., whether s/he holds a PhD degree or not, or
whether the teacher (female) is married or not, and (2) the students are not sure about 
the appropriate distance they are supposed to keep to the teacher �Euro" how they should 
assess the social relationships with their teachers.

B. Different address form use to the teachers

Cultural difference has been observed in the use of titles as address forms to the 
teachers. The respondents have suggested that there is a significant contrast between 
English and German, for example, in this respect. It should also be mentioned that some 
variations are observed between different varieties of English (Australian vs. American).

1. English

An Australian respondent who is in the US stated; �EurooeIf the teacher is a professor 
he/she will usually be called Prof X until he/she invites students to use his/her first 
name (which usually happens fairly quickly). NB: professors have much higher status in 
Australia than they do in the US; typically there will only be one or two professors in 
each department.�Euro

Following are some examples of addressing teachers in German from Germany, German from 
Austria, Hungarian, Greek, French from France and French from French classroom in Ecuador.

2. German (Germany): 
a. Herr (=Mr.)SN with Sie (the polite form of address)
b. Frau (=Mrs) SN with Sie 

3. German (Austria): 
a. �EurooeFrau Professor�Euro (Miss/ Mrs Professor-MALE)
b. With surname (optional): �EurooeFrau Professor Smith�Euro (Miss / Mrs Professor Smith)
However, the respondent has never heard �EurooeFrau Professorin�Euro 
(Miss/Mrs Professor-FEMALE) for a female professor. Neither there is a distinction 
between the form for a married woman and that for a single woman.
c. �EurooeHerr Professor�Euro (Mr Professor-MALE)
d. With surname (Optional): �EurooeHerr Professor Smith�Euro (Mr Professor-MALE Smith)

According to the respondent, �Eurooethe term `professor�Euro(tm) is only used for 
teachers in the kind of secondary school that leads to a final exam, which enables the 
students to go to university. These teachers all have a degree from the university 
(Professor Magister).�Euro The respondent stressed that academic addressing forms were 
very important in Austria.

The respondent continued that for primary school teachers one would use �EurooeHerr 
Lehrer�Euro (Mr teacher-MALE), �EurooeFrau Lehrerin�Euro (Miss / Mrs teacher-FEMALE), and
�Euro"as odd as it may seem- the respondent has also often heard �EurooeFrau Lehrer�Euro 
(Miss / Mrs teacher-MALE).

4. Hungarian:
In primary school, address forms for teachers are as follows; Christian (Given) name + 
néni (�Eurooeaunt�Euro) or bácsi (�Eurooeuncle�Euro), or tanár néni/bácsi (teacher 
aunt/uncle).They change to tanárn�' (teacher-woman, meaning female teacher) or tanár 
úr (teacher mister, meaning �EurooeMr. Teacher�Euro) in secondary school. While these 
remain at university level, the form professzor asszony (professor (married-)woman 
meaning Mrs. Professor, regardless whether she is married or not) or professzor úr 
(professor mister) are also utilised.

5. Greek
In Greek, �EurooeKyrie�Euro (=Mr/Sir : vocative of Kyrios = Mister, Lord) Also "Kyrie GN"
(the use of Kyrie with the first name is not deviant in Greek).
6. French (France)
A respondant tells the FFL students how to address her at the beginning as follows: 
�EurooeMadame�Euro + �Eurooevous�Euro (polite form) all the time during classes, whatever
language is used, and GN during the breaks, outside the classroom + �Eurooetu�Euro forms.

7. French (Classroom in Ecuador)
A respondent gives an example from her FFL class:
She asks the students to address her by GN + either �Eurooetu�Euro or �Eurooevous�Euro. 
Most students return to use GN + �Eurovous�Euro.

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