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Query Details

Query Subject:   Query: Functions of nominal forms of address
Author:   Claudia Bubel
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   Dear colleagues,

in the course of studying constructed dialogue from English
language plays and TV sitcoms, we have come across several phenomena
of nominal forms of address. Reading up on the existing literature and
checking former mailing list queries (see bibliography below) we
realised that the discourse functions of nominal terms of address have
only been treated peripherally.

We are specifically interested in the functions of address (firs
names, kinship terms and terms of endearment) in talk amongst (female)
friends and in mother-daughter interaction. In this kind of data
(constructed by playwrights, and TV production crews) we encountered
the following examples:

1) Use conventional terms of endearment (sweetie, honey, sweetheart)
amongst female friends to indicate intimacy e.g. in greeting and
leave-taking sequences, to reinforce an apology etc.:
C: {answering the phone}hello?
Ch: hey Carrie, it's Charlotte.
C: hey sweetie.

M: yes.(1.0) now would be a good time to wipe that HORRIfied look off
your face. C: sorry sweetie. I'm sorry. I just- wow I didn'
know. where have I been?

2) Use of conventional terms of endearment in a context in whihc one
female friend takes on a superior role, e.g. due to expert knowledge
(this corresponds to Wolfson/Manes 1980 who ague that the social
meaning this usage has in parent-child interaction is carried over and
therefore the term of endearment is patronising, but it might also
function as a positive politeness strategy to soften a
face-threatening act (cf. Brown/Levinson 1987, 107-110).

c) C:(...) and then we're picking up Samantha.
Ch: oh Carrie no:
C: sweetie listen, you need all the girl support you can get, and I'm
late for drinks with Big.

S: Carrie, I have to look fabulous. EVeryone is going to be there.
C: reminder honey, this is a funeral, .. not forty-nine Bond Street.
S: that's your grief talking honey. get your purse. lets go.

3) Use of kinship terms and first names in conflict situations to indicate
disagreement (this corresponds to Kramer (1975) who found that in literary
texts addressing is used as a sign of aggression in situations where
someone is in control or trying to gain control; this is certainly
connected to the "magic of names"):
Olivia has just told her daughter Mary Jane that someone would like to buy
their house.
O: She was so thrilled. She took my hands and said, "Mrs. Dunn, I always
loved your house from the outside when I used to pass it every day on my
way to school."
MJ: It's a development. They all look exactly the same.
O: She said there was always something special about it. (...) She said,
"Mrs. Dunn. It's a dream come true for me to have your house. I wouldn't do
a thing to it." I was so flattered.
MJA: What?
O: So they're coming to take a look around.
MJ: Mother.
O: Well, I never said I was happy here.

Has anybody studied such usage in naturally occurring conversation or is
there any systematic research on the multifunctionality of nominal forms of
address especially first names, kinship terms and terms of endearment?

Thank you very much for your help.

Claudia Bubel and Alice Spitz


Bing, Janet. 1995. Killing us softly: Ambiguous markers of power and
solidarity. Communication in, through, and across cultures, ed. by Mary
Bucholtz et al. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Women and Language Group. [located
on the internet at:]

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

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

Brown, Roger; and Marguerite Ford. 1961. Address in American English.
Journal of abnormal and social psychology 62. 375-385.

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

Gardner, Carol Brooks. 1980. Passing by: Street remarks, address rights,
and the urban female. Sociological Inquiry 50.325-356.

Holmes, Janet. 1995. Women, men, and politeness. Harlow: Longman.

Hudson, Richard A. 1996. Sociolinguistics, 2nd edition. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Hymes, Dell. 1974. Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic
approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Kramer, Cheris. 1975. Sex-related differences in address-systems.
Anthropological Linguistics 17,5. 198-210.

Leisi, Ernst. 1978. Paar und Sprache: Linguistische Aspekte der
Zweierbeziehung. Heidelberg: Quelle und Meyer.

Poynton, Cate. 1989. Terms of address in Australian English. Australian
English, ed. by Peter Collins and David Blair, 55-69. St.Lucia: University
of Queensland Press.

Sachweh, Svenja. 1998. Granny darling's nappies: Secondary babytalk in
German nursing homes for the aged. Journal of Applied Communication
Research 26. 53-65.

Wardaugh, Ronald. 1986. An introduction to sociolinguistics. Oxford:

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.

Former list queries:

LINGUIST 2.696 October 1991: Using names

LINGANTH November 1999: English address forms when name is unknown

LINGUIST 11.2745 December 2000: Use of address forms (in the classroom)

LINGANTH summer 2003: title use in academic settings

- - --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Claudia Bubel
Graduate Assistan
Fachrichtung 4.3 Anglistik
Universitaet des Saarlandes
Postfach 15 11 50
D-66041 Saarbruecken


Everyday language is a part of the human organism and is no less
complicated than it. - Ludwig Wittgenstein

LL Issue: 14.2130
Date posted: 12-Aug-2003


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