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Summary Details

Query:   Animal Names Used in Addressing People
Author:  Katalin Balogné Bérces
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Sociolinguistics

Summary:   Dear Linguists,

Quite a few weeks ago I posted a query in which, on behalf of a student of
mine, Zsuzsa Szamosfalvi, I asked you to fill in a questionnaire about
animal names used to address people in English. We received a generous lot
of answers, for which we are extremely grateful to all of you, whom we
don't have the space to list. But here is a summary of Zsuzsa's preliminary
results, written by her, just to give you some feedback on what you've
become involved in:

''I decided to deal with this topic after having read Halupka-Resetar and
Radic (2003), who carried out a research on ''Animal names used in
addressing people in Serbian''. Although I listed different animal names in
my questionnaire, I was working with the same method they used. My
questionnaire has been completed by some 45 native English-speaking people
from Great-Britain, Ireland, the United States and Canada so far.

In the first and second places in my recent analysis I concentrated on
whether the given animal vocatives are used to express affection or abuse
and whether these animal names are used to address a male or a female
person. Finally, I concentrated on the semantico-pragmatic motivations of
people using particular animal vocatives.

It was rather interesting to realize which animal names are the most
frequently used ones in terms of addressing people. I listed 42 animal
names in my questionnaire, in this case I intend to deal with the 15 most
frequent ones. These are in order of frequency: 1. pig, 2. chick(en), 3.
dog/puppy, 4. cow, 5. monkey, 6. hen, 7. rat, 8. turkey, 9. mouse, 10.
snake, 11. cat/kitten, 12. fox, 13. lamb, 14. vixen, 15. worm.

These preliminary results show that animal vocatives are more often used as
expressing a negative relation towards the addressee, rather than a
positive one. This is also confirmed by the fact that among these 15 animal
names we can find only one, ‘lamb’, which is exclusively used
affectionately, thus it has no abusive meaning at all. All the other animal
vocatives are either used to express an exclusively abusive manner, just
like pig, cow, rat, snake, worm, or to express both an abusive and an
affectionate manner, just like chick(en), dog/puppy, monkey, hen, turkey,
mouse, cat/kitten, fox, vixen.

Most of the mentioned 15 animal vocatives are used to address both a male
and a female person. As there are 3 animal names that are exclusively used
to address a female person, just like cow, hen, vixen, there is not a
single one, which is exclusively used to describe a male addressee. All the
other animal vocatives are used to address both a male and a female person.
Finally, it is interesting to see the semantico-pragmatic motivations of
people using particular animal vocatives, in other words, the different
meanings of the expressions the animal vocatives transfer. I worked with
the same classification that was used by S. Halupka-Resetar and B. Radic.
On the basis of this classification I divided the 15 listed animal names
into the following four groups: appearance, eating habits, intelligence and
character. Therefore, cow and vixen are listed under appearance, pig is
under eating habits, fox and turkey are under intelligence, while the group
character includes cat/kitten, hen, snake, worm, monkey, dog/puppy, mouse,
chicken, lamb and rat.

In my further analysis I would like to devote much more attention to the
morphosyntactic structures in which the animal vocatives are used and the
typical situations that usually provoke such occurrences.''

We are grateful for all the help we've got.

Katalin Balogné Bérces and Zsuzsa Szamosfalvi,
Péter Pázmány Catholic University, Hungary

Halupka-Resetar, Sabina and Radic, Biljana, 2003. Animal names used in
addressing people in Serbian. In: Journal of Pragmatics 35 (2003) pp.

LL Issue: 20.295
Date Posted: 30-Jan-2009
Original Query: Read original query


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