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Summary Details


Query:   Discourse functions of nominal terms of address
Author:  Claudia Bubel
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Discourse Analysis

Summary:   Dear colleagues,

some time ago we posted a query on the discourse functions of nominal forms of address (LINGUIST 14.2130). While response has not been as extensive as we wished for, we have been able to add a few interesting items to our bibliography which helped shed light on the instances of address in our data.

We would like to thank the following respondents:

Maria Wowk
Robert E. Sanders
William Mann
Gene Lerner
Siri Mehus
Marina Terkourafi

Find a summary of the materials we came across in the wake of our query below.

Best wishes,
Claudia Bubel and Alice Spitz



Many authors deplore that address is mainly researched and described as a static component of talk, unrelated to the interactive activities in which it is embedded. So far attention has focused almost entirely on the ''properties of the dyad'' (Brown/Ford 1961) using the terms of address along the lines of Brown and Gilman's (1960) study on the pronouns of power and solidarity (e.g. Brown/Ford 1961, Ervin-Tripp 1972, Braun 1988) and there is a lack of broad empirical studies of the actual usage of nominal terms of address in discourse (cf. Holmes 1984, Hartung forthcoming).

Zwicky (1974) states that vocatives serve at least two functions: firstly, calls, designed to catch the addressee's attention and secondly, addresses, which serve to maintain or emphasize the contact between speaker and addressee (functioning like back-channelling and expressions on part of the speaker like ''listen'', ''hey'', ''look''). Zwicky's distinction corresponds to the one made in Schegloff (1968) for terms of address in conversational openings. Leech (1999) distinguishes three pragmatic functions on the basis of the spoken section of the Longman Spoken and Written English corpus (LSWE): 1) summoning attention, 2) addressee identification, 3) maintaining and reinforcing social relationships. These three functions may co-occur in various combinations and there may also be further communicative functions, e.g. emotive. Dunkling (1990) lists as many as 30 ''reasons'' for vocative usage also taking into account ceremonial and ritual usage. Zwicky (1974) remarks on the sociolinguistics markedness of terms of address and their capacity to locate the speaker and the discourse in a particular social world by expressing attitude, politeness, status, opinion about the degree of intimacy and the type of interaction, judgement about various properties of the addressee (sex, age, occupation, physical and personal characteristics, family relationship, marital status), and membership. He concludes that there is virtually no affectively neutral vocative.

Leech (1999) also explores the position of vocatives within communicative units and finds that positions are related to pragmatic function: initial vocatives tend to combine the attention-getting function with the function of singling out the appropriate addressee and final vocatives combine the addressee-identifying function with the relationship-maintenance function. This is supported by research by Lerner (2003) which shows that pre-positioned terms of address are regularly employed as a device to establish or verify the availability of a recipient in situations where this may be problematic whereas post-positioned terms of address are regularly used as a device to demonstrate a particular stance toward the relationship with a recipient under circumstances where that demonstration is particularly relevant. As the LSWE corpus mostly yielded vocatives in utterance-final position Leech (1999) concludes that the social role of vocatives is more important than other functions. Wootton (1981), however, focusing on child-parent interaction,
shows that utterance-initial ToA can also have a social role in so far as they are used to anticipates trouble including relationship trouble. Utterance-final vocatives in his data, on the other hand, function as a solicitation mechanism. They are used as a remedial device after a parent has not commented on an initial remark by a child placing a stronger constraint on the recipient to take a turn. Jefferson (1973) shows another local function of ToA for closing sequences. She finds tag positioned address terms which operate to add to the length of an ongoing utterance and provide that a speaker has not stopped talking although a possible complete utterance has been produced. This usage works to prevent informative pauses. In this case Jefferson notes there is a shift in the address term's status ''from a key locus of relational work to a sound particle in the service of another type of interactional work''(p. 74).

It seems that hardly any generalisation holds for the correlation of positions and functions of vocatives in discourse; every instance has to be carefully analysed in its linguistic and extra-linguistic context. McConnell-Ginet (2003) sees ToA as windows on the construction of social relations in communities of practice (CofP). CofP seem well-suited as entities of analysis for these conversational resources, especially when looking at ambiguous terms of address like endearments or insults. Dunkling (1990) states that almost any word, name or phrase used vocatively can be made to belie its apparent face-value, that is terms of endearment for example may be neutral (cf. Dickey 1997 for ''dear'') and even function to mark disrespect (cf. McConnell-Ginet 1978, Wolfson and Manes 1980) while insults may be used to create rapport in certain CofP.

Another issue Leech (1999) raises based on the LSWE corpus is that vocatives are not used among close associates where neither addressee-identifying role nor ''relationship-maintenance-role is felt to be necessary'' (e.g. mother-daughter, wife-husband). This seems at variance with Emihovich's (1981) study of children's friendship groups. Although the friendship between the young children in her study was well-established and they were sure of their mutual relationship, they constantly used their names in their interactions even when summoning attention and addressee-identification was clearly not the issue. Eminhovich concludes that they use first names to maintain solidarity as a friendship cohort and to indicate their special relationship as ''best buddies'' vis-?-vis other children playing around them. This again stresses the importance of local vocative co-texts and contexts (cf. also Dunkling 1990). In Eminhovich's study vocatives were used in order to distinguish between friends and non-friends.

Weatherall (1996) looks at gender bias in forms of address used in soap opera dialogue (Coronation Street). Her data provides an example of how a ToA can serve multiple goals in discourse: Jackie and Mike interview Deirdre for a job and despite Mike and Deirdre's familiarity, title plus last names are the only form of address used. Two factors account for this formal behaviour: firstly, the interview situation and secondly, the fact that Mike had an affair with Deirdre, which he disguises from his fianc?e Jackie. Another interesting result from her study is the usage pattern for the endearment 'love': while Wolfson and Manes (1980) show how this term of endearment can reflect status in US American service encounters, the British TV show Coronation Street displays different patterns: some characters use 'love' only to refer to their partners (endearment), others to refer to both partners and close friends (familiar form of address), and one character uses love to address everyone she encounters (dialect marker).

In our data of constructed talk between female friends and between mothers and daughters vocatives occur in sequences which can be considered relationship-negotiating situations, e.g. arguments and giving advice. In these situations ToA occur in initial as well as utterance-final position, yet never in order to summon attention or identify the recipient, but clearly solely as an ''indicator of the political and personal realities of social interaction'' (McConnell-Ginet 1978).

The ambiguous usage of ToA can be accounted for with the help of different frameworks. Certainly, Tannen's (1993) linguistic relativity theory which takes power and solidarity into account is a good starting point.

Furthermore, Dickey (1997) distinguishes marked vs. unmarked forms of address for given dyads. This can certainly be extended to CofP. Consequently, the value of terms of address functioning as insults or endearments lies in the fact that they are marked forms for a given CofP and thus convey a particular emotion. Likewise, McConnell-Ginet (2003) notes that although there seems to be a general conventional ranking of choices in ToA, members of particular CofP may develop their own practices. The importance of certain ToA lies in the history of usage patterns within and across particular CofP and in the link between addressing and other aspects of social practice that construct social relations marking them with respect and affection or with contempt and dislike.

Goodwin (1990) shows how the semantically neutral term of address ''man'' in the talk of young black boys obtains affective valence from the way in which it is embedded within a larger field of action. Typically, speaker and recipient are depicted as aligned toward each other in an asymmetrical fashion with the speaker proposing that he can tell recipient what to do. The larger framework of the surrounding talk distinguishes the participants from each other and places addressee in a subordinate, inferior position vis-?-vis the speaker. By virtue of the way in which it functions as an addressee intensifier, ''man'' can become coloured by the disrespect visible in the participant structure of the talk that encompasses it. Goodwin's data also contains terms of endearment used to mark disrespect towards the interlocutor.

Terkourafi (forthcoming) looks at terms of address in Greek Cypriot conversational data on the basis of Brown and Levinson's framework (1987). Her data provides examples of address behaviour that at first sight seems not in line with B&L's theory, and she shows how various extra-linguistic features of a situation (e.g. metaphorical power) as well as preceding interaction between the interlocutors impact on B&L's three values, Power, Distance and Ranking of Imposition.

Braun, Fredericke. 1988. Terms of address: Problems of patterns and usage in various languages and cultures. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Brown, Roger; and Marguerite Ford. 1961. Address in American English. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 62. 375-385.

Brown, Roger; and Albert Gilman. 1960. The pronouns of power and solidarity. Style in language, ed. by T. A. Sebeok. 253-277. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Brown, Penelope and Levinson, Stephen. 1987. Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dickey, Eleanor. 1997. Forms of address and terms of reference. Journal of Linguistics 33. 255-274.

Dunkling, Leslie. 1990. A dictionary of epithets and terms of address. London:Routledge.

Emihovich, Catherine A. 1981. The intimacy of address: Friendship markers in children's social play. Language in Society 10. 189-199.

Ervin-Tripp, Susan M. 1972. Sociolinguistic rules of address. Sociolinguistics, ed. by Pride J. B. and Janet Holmes. 225-240. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Goodwin, Marjorie Harness. 1990. He-said-she-said: Talk as social organization among black children. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hartung, Martin. forthcoming. Formen der Adressiertheit der Rede. HSK Text- und Gespr?chslinguistik, 2. Halbband, ed. by Klaus Brinker, Gerd Antos, Sven Sager and Wolfgang Heinemann. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Holmes, Dick. 1984. Explicit-implicit address. Journal of Pragmatics 8. 311-320.

Jefferson, Gail. 1973. A case of precision timing in ordinary conversation: Overlapped tag positioned address terms in closing sequences. Semiotica 9. 47-96.

Leech, Geoffrey. 1999. The distribution and function of vocatives in American and British English conversation. Out of corpora: Studies in humour of Stig Johansson, ed. by Hilde Hasselg?rd and Signe Oksefjell, 107-118. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Lerner, Gene. 2003. Selecting next speaker: The context-sensitive operation of a context-free organization. Language in Society 32,2. 177-201.

McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 1978. Address forms in sexual politics. Women's language and style, ed. by Douglas Butturff and Edmund L. Epstein, 23-35. Akron: L&S.

McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 2003. ''What's in a name?'' Social labeling and gender practices. The handbook of language and gender, ed. by Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff, 69-97. Oxford: Blackwell.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 1968. Sequencing in conversational openings. American Anthropologist 70. 1075-1095.

Tannen, Deborah. 1993. The relativity of linguistic strategies: Rethinking power and solidarity in gender and dominance. Gender and conversational interaction, ed. by Deborah Tannen, 165-188. Oxford: Blackwell.

Terkourafi, Marina. forthcoming. Testing Brown and Levinson's (1987) three sociological variables with reference to a corpus of spontaneous conversational data from Cypriot Greek: Evidence from address terms and realisations of offers and requests. International Journal of the Sociology of Language.

Weatherall, Ann. 1996. Language about women and men: An example from popular. Journal of language and social psychology 15(1). 59-75.

Wolfson, Nessa; and John Manes. 1980. 'Don't dear me!' Women and language in literature and society, ed. by Sally McConnell-Ginet; Ruth Borker; and Nelly Furman. 79-92. New York: Praeger.

Wootton, Anthony J. 1981. Children's use of address terms. Adult-child conversation, ed. by Peter French and Margaret MacLure, 142-158. New York: St. Martins.

Zwicky, Arnold. 1974. Hey, Whatsyourname! Papers from the tenth regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, ed. by Michael W. LaGaly, Robert A. Fox, Anthony Bruck, 787-801. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

LL Issue: 14.3403
Date Posted: 09-Dec-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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