Address strategies in a British academic setting

Maicol Formentelli


The English system of address constitutes an exception among the European languages, in that it does not have a grammatical distinction between a formal pronoun of address and an informal one. Rather, English speakers exploit lexical strategies (i.e. nominal vocatives). This study aims to shed light on the address strategies used by students and members of the teaching staff in academic interactions, with reference to the University of Reading (UK). Data from semi-structured interviews and video-recordings outline an unmarked pattern of asymmetry between the parties, in which students mainly employ formal vocatives towards lecturers (title+surname, honorifics), while lecturers frequently use first names and other informal expressions. Reciprocal informal vocatives, by contrast, emerges as a marked practice, which is resisted or delayed in time. This asymmetrical distribution of forms questions classical models and previous research on address and calls for the necessity of new components for the understanding of the phenomenon.

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