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Address in intercultural communication across languages
Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics. Volume 6, Issue 3, Pages 395–409, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: 10.1515/IPRG.2009.020, July 2009
- Published Online:
Through migration, travel, globalization, and new technologies, languages and their address systems are increasingly in contact. Modes of address are both fundamental to expressing human relations and closely linked to cultural value systems. In European languages these modes may include a pronoun, first name [FN], honorific and/or title + last name [LN] (Herr or Herr Professor Kecskés), or other formal mode (sir/madam) or informal mode (mate, dear). They enable people to include and exclude and to express common ground and degrees of social distance. However, the interaction of languages and cultures presents both opportunities and challenges. I will first introduce an address model arrived at through a large-scale study of variation and change in address in four European languages. Participants' reports on the effects of language contact on address will be included. I will then discuss some email in intercultural professional contexts focusing on switches between address modes.
The theoretical model for this paper derives from a project on variation and change in address and perceptions and expectations of address patterns. The research locations were Paris, Toulouse, Mannheim (in western Germany), Leipzig (in eastern Germany), Vienna (for Austria), Stockholm (for Sweden), and Vaasa (for the Swedish minority in Finland; Swedish being one of the official languages). The data is from focus groups, interviews, chat groups, and participant observation on address in French, German, and Swedish, taking into account national varieties. For comparison, focus groups were also conducted in three English-speaking locations in Europe, London, Newcastle (in the north-east of England), and Tralee (in the south-west of Ireland, where there are a considerable number of Irish-English bilinguals). I have been conducting the study together with colleagues at the University of Melbourne, Leo Kretzenbacher, Catrin Norrby, and Jane Warren (Clyne, Kretzenbacher, Norrby and Schüpbach, Journal of Sociolinguistics 3: 287–319, 2006, Kretzenbacher, Clyne and Schüpbach, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 29: 2006, Norrby, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 29: 2006, Warren, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 29: 2006, Clyne, Norrby and Warren, Language and human relations: styles of address in contemporary language, Cambridge University Press, 2009).
The email is from communication with a range of professional interlocutors (writing in English, German or Dutch) from first encounter in intercultural contexts. Strings of email indicate what progression (if any) occurs in the decrease of social distance through modes of address.