Reviewed by Susan Meredith Burt, Illinois State University
This volume focuses on the sociopragmatics of choosing appropriate terms of address, both nominal and pronominal, in German, French, English, and Swedish. The authors’ team recruited and recorded focus groups of native speakers in several cities for each language, collected questionnaires, and conducted interviews with speakers and members of their social networks on choosing address terms in a variety of situations.
Ch. 1 provides basic information about the address term repertoire of each of the four languages. French, German, and Swedish all have two second person pronouns, a V (as in vous) and a T (as in tu) form; modern standard English dialects lack the distinction, but in common with the other three languages have first names, last names, titles (Doctor, Professor), and what the authors call honorifics, the Ms., Mrs., Miss, and Mr. equivalents. While French and German are somewhat similar in the distribution of T and V, Swedish is presented as more ‘radical’, having changed from ‘high formality’ in address to generalized use of T.
Ch. 2 reviews literature on address terms since 1960, the date of Roger Brown and Albert Gilman’s seminal paper that linked T with a ‘solidarity’ semantic and V with a ‘power’ semantic. Subsequent research has shown this to be somewhat oversimplified; even with only one second-person pronoun (disregarding regional thou and you-plural variants), English address terms offer a variety of choices, from endearments and familiarized first names (Susie), to title-plus-surname and nominal honorifics (Madam). In addition, each of the four languages has its own address form history. Finally, the chapter reviews address forms in terms of politeness, social distance, status or power, style, and identity.
Ch. 3 argues for the ‘need to search beyond static social variables to explain choice of address’ (37). Thus, V is the default address pronoun in French and German, but in Swedish T is expected and V is marked. The goal of the chapter is to explore motivations that prompt less-expected address pronouns and the methods used to move to a T relationship. The factors of age and status are explored for all four languages, and in a section on ‘perceived commonalities’ it is shown how similar backgrounds, interests, attitudes, or affinities can lead to T in French or German despite age or status differences, while perception of social distance or economic status difference can lead Swedish speakers to choose the marked V form.
Ch. 4 argues that address term choices are also a function of domains, and explore address for all four languages in the family, school, university, and workplace, in which issues of signaling social distance or inclusion are primary. In addition, the authors discuss the complexities of address term choice in service transactions, letters, and computer-mediated communication. Ch. 5 explores national variants, such as greater use of T in former East Germany, non-reciprocal address conventions at Viennese universities, use of V in Finland Swedish with younger addressees than in Sweden, and greater use of Sir and Madam in England than in Ireland.
The final chapter offers a model for address term choice designed to reflect the multidimensionality of address phenomena, and a discussion of sociopolitical factors (including language contact) that can change address systems of pluricentric languages. Although the organization of material by subtopic rather than by language is occasionally disconcerting, overall this volume will be of great interest and value to scholars in sociolinguistics, sociopragmatics, politeness, and relational practice.