A New Look at Address in American English: The Rules Have Changed
Copyright (c) 2002 Maney
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This essay replicates the landmark research done by Roger Brown and Marguerite Ford (1961) on forms of address in dyadic encounters in American English-more specifically, on the choice speakers make between the use of an addressee's first name and his or her title plus last name. The results show that many of the rules governing address have changed greatly over the past two generations: the use of first names is more common now in encounters involving two newly-introduced adults, in other adult encounters in which there is a difference between the speaker's and addressee's occupational status and/or a 15-year-or-greater difference between their ages, and in encounters in which the speaker is a child and the addressee is an adult. These changes are linked to Americans’ evolving perceptions of what criteria are important in determining a social pecking order, and to semantic shifts in Americans’ concepts of distance, formality, intimacy, and status.
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