LINGUIST List 11.2770

Wed Dec 20 2000

Sum: Re-submission - Use of Address Forms

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Yuko Taniguchi, Use of Address Forms

Message 1: Use of Address Forms

Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 22:50:14 -0000
From: Yuko Taniguchi <>
Subject: Use of Address Forms

I have received the following summary through the list, and realised that
the text contained lots of characters which did not properly show up. I
believe that these were due to the fact that I had to paste examples from
MS-Word in different languages. (Which did not show up in my "sending"

I have been able to produce the plain text file version below which seems to
be better. However, accent symbols in some languages such as French,
Hungarian had to be dropped.

Please repost it if the editor feels appropriate.


Yuko Taniguchi

27 Redhatch Drive
Earley, Reading, Berkshire RG6 5QS

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 Mady
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 - 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 'last name' before a
'first name'. 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 'classroom'
context in terms of linguistic environment - 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 form.

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'. 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') when
they address teachers who are native English speakers: This seems to result
from Spanish speaker'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' address form avoidance strategy, the teachers
would avoid the use of address forms by saying, "`Sorry, I don't know your
name but could you tell me...' or avoiding them completely saying `next
please', or `You in the back row' "(EFL class--Spain). As an example of
students' avoidance, "A couple of students ... do not address me at all,
.... For instance, if they raise their hand and are recognised, they will
begin with `How do...' rather than, `Jim, how do...'"(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

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 - 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; "If 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."

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. "Frau Professor" (Miss/ Mrs Professor-MALE)
b. With surname (optional): "Frau Professor Smith" (Miss / Mrs Professor
However, the respondent has never heard "Frau Professorin" (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. "Herr Professor" (Mr Professor-MALE)
d. With surname (Optional): "Herr Professor Smith" (Mr Professor-MALE Smith)

According to the respondent, "the term `professor' 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)." The respondent stressed that academic
addressing forms were very important in Austria.

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

4. Hungarian:
In primary school, address forms for teachers are as follows; Christian
(Given) name + neni ("aunt") or bacsi ("uncle"), or tanar neni/bacsi
(teacher aunt/uncle).They change to tanarn? (teacher-woman, meaning female
teacher) or tanar ur (teacher mister, meaning "Mr. Teacher") 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 ur (professor mister) are also utilised.

5. Greek
In Greek, "Kyrie" (=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
"Madame" + "vous" (polite form) all the time during classes, whatever
language is used, and GN during the breaks, outside the classroom + "tu"

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

27 Redhatch Drive
Earley, Reading, Berkshire RG6 5QS
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