Dear, my dear, my lady, your ladyship : Meaning and use of address term modulation by my

Anouk Buyle

Abstract

This paper investigates the use of my as part of address formulae by means of a corpus consisting of eight British English plays published between 1899 and 1912. For each conversational turn, address terms, speaker, addressee, power and solidarity dynamics, and speech acts have been identified. The address terms most frequently modified by my have been selected for further investigation, which allows an analysis of the alternation between dear and my dear, as well as my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship. Results show that, when my has impact on the power dimension, the address formula with my construes the addressee as less powerful than the speaker. When my has impact on the solidarity dimension, the address formula with my construes the addressee as a close interlocutor. The functional import of my varies depending on the address term it modifies, which is consistent with its function as a modulating element.

Keywords:
Publication history
Table of contents

1.Introduction

In any language, there is an impressive range of options speakers can choose from to address their interlocutor. As such, language allows speakers to construe the addressee in many different ways. Research on address usage has focused on identifying the various determinants that shape speakers’ choices. For pronominal address terms, Brown and Gilman (1960)Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar have introduced power and solidarity as essential, defining dimensions. They observe that many European languages distinguish between two second-person pronouns: a T pronoun (after Latin tu) and a V pronoun (after Latin vos). A speaker using a T-pronoun construes the addressee as socially inferior to the speaker (power), or as intimate with the speaker (solidarity). The V pronoun is then used to construe the addressee as socially superior to the speaker (power) or unfamiliar with the speaker (solidarity). This power-and-solidarity model has been used to explain the variation between address terms for different languages, including different stages of English. The model has also been applied to nominal address terms by Brown and Ford (1961)Brown, Roger, and Marguerite Ford 1961 “Address in American English.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 62: 375–385. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, who argue that the contrast between given name and title + surname resembles the T/V contrast. The system of nominal address terms is much more open-ended than a pronominal T/V system. Nevertheless, for Modern English as well Present-Day English, linguists have tried to identify functional profiles of nominal address terms, often relying at least implicitly on the power-and-solidarity model. Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg (1995)Nevalainen, Terttu, and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg 1995 “Constraints on Politeness: The Pragmatics of Address Formulae in Early English Correspondence.” In Historical Pragmatics. Pragmatic Developments in the History of English. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 35, ed. by Andreas H. Jucker, 541–601. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, for instance, note that, in the seventeenth century, nicknames are used when gentlemen address other gentlemen (power) who are friends (solidarity). Similarly, Leech (1999) 1999 “The Distribution and Function of Vocatives in American and British English Conversation.” In Out of Corpora, ed. by Hilde Hasselgård, and Signe Oksefjell, 107–118. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar argues that familiarizers such as buddy and mate, mark the relation between speaker and addressee as friendly (solidarity) and as equal (power).

In their account of nominal address terms, Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg (1995)Nevalainen, Terttu, and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg 1995 “Constraints on Politeness: The Pragmatics of Address Formulae in Early English Correspondence.” In Historical Pragmatics. Pragmatic Developments in the History of English. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 35, ed. by Andreas H. Jucker, 541–601. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, as well as Busse (2006)Busse, Beatrix 2006Vocative Constructions in the Language of Shakespeare. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, observe that address terms can be used in many different combinations, i.e. they can function as modifiers in complex address formulae, such as my most dear cousin. Especially since some address terms, such as old, little and my, are uniquely used as modifiers, a closer examination of modifying address terms is particularly interesting. In their analysis of a corpus of letters, Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg (1995)Nevalainen, Terttu, and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg 1995 “Constraints on Politeness: The Pragmatics of Address Formulae in Early English Correspondence.” In Historical Pragmatics. Pragmatic Developments in the History of English. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 35, ed. by Andreas H. Jucker, 541–601. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar distinguish between noun modifiers (e.g. master and brother), modifying adjectives (e.g. honoured and dear), intensifiers (e.g. right and most), and the possessive pronoun my or mine. They give an overview of the address terms that most often co-occur in complex address formulae and trace the popularity of specific modifiers throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century. In the same vein, Busse (2006)Busse, Beatrix 2006Vocative Constructions in the Language of Shakespeare. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar notes that, in her corpus of Shakespearean plays, my lord is the most frequent collocation and good is the most frequent modifying adjective. Busse also remarks that the modifying address term good, like many modifiers, clearly displays “a variety of semantic meaning and interpersonal shades” (2006, 219). However, the investigation of a modifier’s impact on the functional profiles of address formulae remains a challenge for address research. Especially when examining modifying address terms that occur in a wide range of address formulae, it becomes clear that an investigation of the address term’s semantics does not suffice.

The aim of this paper is to investigate the use of my as part of address formulae, as in (1). Even though my is one of the most frequent modifying address terms, a systematic functional analysis of my is lacking. For this reason, this paper aims to examine how including my in an address formula affects the way in which a speaker uses the address formula to construe the addressee in terms of power and solidarity. Earlier studies have already described my as a marker of intensified intimacy and affection between speaker and addressee (Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 1995Nevalainen, Terttu, and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg 1995 “Constraints on Politeness: The Pragmatics of Address Formulae in Early English Correspondence.” In Historical Pragmatics. Pragmatic Developments in the History of English. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 35, ed. by Andreas H. Jucker, 541–601. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 556). Busse, for instance, notes that deictic elements such as my serve as a form of orientation by reference to the speaker, and that, in the case of my, the direct and immediate address of the speaker to the addressee is highlighted (2006, 96). She goes on to argue that, when Ophelia addresses Hamlet with my lord, the address term not only marks deference, but also emphasizes that Hamlet has once been Ophelia’s lover and that he might still be obsessed by her beauty (2006, 97). In another example, Antony addresses Cleopatra with my precious queen. According to Busse, my indicates Antony’s twofold identity: his “Roman sense of male dominance and his possession of Cleopatra’ and ‘the sincere, emotional, personal, and more Egyptian wish to stay with her” (2006, 198). In the same vein, Nevala (2004)Nevala, Minna 2004 “Accessing Politeness Axes: Forms of Address and Terms of Reference in Early English Correspondence.” Journal of Pragmatics 36: 2125–2160. CrossrefGoogle Scholar makes some observations that suggest that my is associated with a high degree of solidarity. She notes that, although in direct address, my is mostly a conventionalized part of the address formula, my is most often used in combination with kin terms, such as my brother, and seems to have been excluded or replaced by dear in later uses (Nevala 2004Nevala, Minna 2004 “Accessing Politeness Axes: Forms of Address and Terms of Reference in Early English Correspondence.” Journal of Pragmatics 36: 2125–2160. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 2146). Still, although my seems to be a marker of intimacy, Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg also mention that my “may simply delimit the described reciprocal relationship between two persons” (1995, 556). The analysis presented in this paper, which investigates my’s functional import by comparing the use of dear and my dear, as well as my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship, will demonstrate that my does affect the speaker’s construal of the addressee, and that adding my to the address formula not only affects its meaning in terms of solidarity but also in terms of power, depending on the address term my modifies.

(1)

My dear, I wish you could be frank without being sententious. (MAU1912)

In what follows, the functional profile of my will be investigated by means of an analysis of nominal address terms in a corpus of eight British English plays, published between 1899 and 1912. Section 2 below gives some background on the notions of power and solidarity, and how they have been shown to influence address usage in English. Section 3 describes the corpus data and the annotation procedure. In Section 4, we discuss the results and concluding remarks are offered in Section 5.

2.Theoretical framework

Address terms constitute a core resource for realizing social deixis, marking the relation between speaker and addressee. In order to fully understand the linguistic meaning of address terms, it is necessary to identify the determinants that define speaker-addressee interactions. Seminal work by Brown and Gilman (1960)Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar has introduced the power-and-solidarity model,11.The large amount of terminological variation regarding the power-and-solidarity model has been summarized by Spencer-Oatey (1996)Spencer-Oatey, Helen 1996 “Reconsidering Power and Distance.” Journal of Pragmatics 26: 1–24. CrossrefGoogle Scholar. which has been shown to motivate some kind of default address usage between two interlocutors. Brown and Gilman (1960)Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar for instance note that parents address their children with the T pronoun and receive V in return, and that siblings address each other with the T pronoun, while strangers opt for V. In those cases, power and solidarity are usually interpreted in terms of age difference or family membership, which remain constant for one pair of interlocutors.

However, power and solidarity have also proven to be flexible dimensions: power and solidarity dynamics between two interlocutors can change depending on the context. A number of studies on pronominal address terms have shown that a speaker can alternate between the T pronoun and the V pronoun when addressing the same interlocutor, even within the same conversation. This type of pronoun switching has been defined as a momentary shift of mood (Brown and Gilman 1960Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar), or as a mixed style in which the speaker can express affect (Aalberse 2004Aalberse, Suzanne 2004 “Waer bestu bleven? De verdwijning van het pronomen ‘du’ in een taalvergelijkend perspectief.” Nederlandse Taalkunde 9: 231–252.Google Scholar). Although these definitions aim to highlight that pronoun switching is associated with emotionally loaded situations, qualitative analyses also show that switching indicates a temporary change in the solidarity and/or power dynamics between speaker and addressee. In her analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Mazzon argues that Claudius, who normally uses V to address Laertes, switches to T “to offer solidarity for the younger man’s mourning and his desire of revenge” (2003Mazzon, Gabriella 2003 “Pronouns and Nominal Address in Shakespearean English: A Socio-Affective Marking System in Transition.” In Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems, ed. by Irma Taavitsainen, and Andreas H. Jucker, 223–250. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 233). Similarly, Vismans observes that the host in a contemporary Dutch radio show switches from T to V when his guest, a politician, moves on from a personal account to a more serious, controversial political topic (2016Vismans, Roel 2016 “Jojoën tussen u en je. Over de dynamiek van het gebruik van Nederlandse aanspreekvormen in het radioprogramma Casa Luna .” Internationale Neerlandistiek 54 (2): 117–136. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 124). Vismans notes that the host’s switching to the V pronoun might encode a temporary decrease in intimacy (2016Vismans, Roel 2016 “Jojoën tussen u en je. Over de dynamiek van het gebruik van Nederlandse aanspreekvormen in het radioprogramma Casa Luna .” Internationale Neerlandistiek 54 (2): 117–136. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 125). These qualitative analyses show that, depending on the context, speakers may want to modify or highlight existing power and/or solidarity dynamics, which is then reflected in the construal of the addressee by means of address usage. Note that context has been defined in terms of style and topic (Vismans 2016Vismans, Roel 2016 “Jojoën tussen u en je. Over de dynamiek van het gebruik van Nederlandse aanspreekvormen in het radioprogramma Casa Luna .” Internationale Neerlandistiek 54 (2): 117–136. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), but has been interpreted pragmatically as well (Mazzon 2003Mazzon, Gabriella 2003 “Pronouns and Nominal Address in Shakespearean English: A Socio-Affective Marking System in Transition.” In Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems, ed. by Irma Taavitsainen, and Andreas H. Jucker, 223–250. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Norrby et al. 2018Norrby, Catrin, Camilla Wide, Jenny Nilsson, and Jan Lindström 2018 “Positioning through Address Practice in Finland-Swedish and Sweden-Swedish Service Encounters.” In Positioning the Self and Others. Linguistic Perspectives, ed. by Kate Beeching, Chiara Ghezzi, and Piera Molinelli, 19–49. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), i.e. differences in speech acts might influence address usage. The investigation of address usage by means of a speech act analysis has also been suggested by Martiny, who notes that address terms “play an important role in the performance of speech acts” (1996Martiny, Thierry 1996 “Forms of Address in French and Dutch: A Sociopragmatic Approach.” Language Sciences 18: 765–775. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 767). As such, identifying speech acts will be a fundamental part of the analysis presented in this paper, since it can reveal context-dependent changes in power and solidarity.

As address terms are important resources for encoding aspects of the social relationship holding between speaker and addressee, it is not surprising that politeness studies have identified address usage as a politeness strategy (Brown and Levinson 1987; Brown and Gilman 1989 1989 “Politeness Theory and Shakespeare’s Four Major Tragedies.” Language in Society 18: 159–212. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Culpeper 1996Culpeper, Jonathan 1996 “Towards an Anatomy of Impoliteness.” Journal of Pragmatics 25 (3): 349–367. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). This means that address terms can be recruited by speakers who want to mitigate a face-threatening act (or FTA). Brown and Levinson, for instance, identify the address term sir in (2) as a politeness strategy that fits the heavy FTA context (1987, 183). In short, when a speech act has the potential to harm the addressee’s face, address usage makes it possible to encode certain aspects of the speaker-addressee relation in order to soften the potential harm.

(2)

Excuse me, sir, but would you mind if I close the window? (Brown and Levinson 1987Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 183)

In their politeness framework, Brown and Levinson (1987)Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar note that the relative power and social distance between speaker and addressee have an impact on whether a speech act is face-threatening, and as a consequence, on the use of politeness markers such as address terms. This way, Brown and Levinson’s politeness framework (1987Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) is in agreement with Brown and Gilman’s power-and-solidarity model (1960Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar). Importantly, Brown and Levinson (1987)Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar also distinguish between two types of face-threatening acts, which require different politeness strategies. When the speaker intends to impede the addressee’s freedom of action (= negative FTA), the face-threatening act can be softened by negative politeness, which emphasizes the addressee’s relative power (Brown and Levinson 1987Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 130). When the speaker indicates a lack of care for the addressee’s feelings or wants (= positive FTA), the face-threatening act can be softened by positive politeness, which shows that the speaker wants to ‘come closer’ to the addressee (Brown and Levinson 1987Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 103). These descriptions of negative and positive politeness demonstrate that speakers can change the way in which they encode speaker-addressee relations in terms of power and solidarity, depending on the presence of a face-threatening act (i.e. the extent to which a speech act is face-threatening) and the type of face threat it involves (i.e. whether the speech act is a threat to the addressee’s positive or negative face). Brown and Levinson indeed argue that situational factors have an impact on the values for power and solidarity, so that the values assessed hold only for speaker and addressee in a particular context, and for a particular face-threatening act (1987, 79). Again, parallels can be drawn with the context-dependent notions of power and solidarity that have been shown to influence address usage in qualitative analyses. The interpretation of context in terms of speech act pragmatics seems to be especially relevant when address usage is understood as a politeness strategy. In what follows, all address terms will be analysed in terms of politeness, i.e. whether they are most likely employed as a positive or negative politeness strategy, and whether they occur when politeness is particularly urgent.

The analysis presented in this paper examines address terms in terms of power and solidarity, which are considered stable as well as flexible dimensions. This means that, on the one hand, the annotation for power and solidarity describes the relationship between speaker and addressee by means of relatively constant characteristics. On the other hand, the speaker’s construal of the addressee in terms of power and solidarity is expected to change depending on context, particularly the speech act involved. For this reason, speech acts, including face-threatening acts, have been identified.

3.Methodology

3.1Corpus

This study of my as a part of address formulae is based on a corpus of eight British English plays, published between 1899 and 1912. Table 1 gives an overview of the plays and their authors (five men, three women), the years of publication and the size of each play. Corpus size is expressed in the number of speaker turns rather than in the number of words, as the turns are treated as the units of analysis in this study.

Table 1.Selected plays
Author Year of publication Title Size (in turns) Reference
Arthur Wing Pinero 1899 The Gay Lord Quex 1,689 PIN1899
Henry Arthur Jones 1903 Whitewashing Julia 1,378 JON1903
John Galsworthy 1909 Strife  727 GAL1909
Harley Granville Barker 1910 The Madras House 1,382 BAR1910
Florence Bell 1910 The Way The Money Goes  920 BEL1910
Elizabeth Baker 1911 Chains 1,156 BAK1911
Cicely Hamilton 1911 Just To Get Married 1,137 HAM1911
Somerset Maugham 1912 Lady Frederick 1,233 MAU1912

This corpus consists of comedies and social realist plays, which have been chosen because they aim to depict contemporary, everyday life. They were published at a time when British theater is increasingly interested in naturalistic drama texts, and favors more natural dialogue and a sincere effort to make the stage the mirror of life (Thorndike 1965Thorndike, Ashley H. 1965English Comedy. New York: Cooper Square.Google Scholar, 561). Still, a corpus of drama texts contains constructed dialogues and has its disadvantages for pragmatic analysis (as pointed out by Austin 1962Austin, John L. 1962How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar and Taavitsainen and Jucker 2003Taavitsainen, Irma, and Andreas H. Jucker (eds) 2003Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Even though the plays in this corpus have been selected because they aim to depict contemporary life, the social relations in the fictional world of the plays do not necessarily reflect real-life relationships. On the contrary, the drama texts in our corpus often select unusual or strenuous relationships, in order to achieve comic effect or another form of emotional release. However, this does not necessarily affect the pragmatic meaning of address terms: address usage can adjust to the fictional social universe of the plays (Taavitsainen and Jucker 2003Taavitsainen, Irma, and Andreas H. Jucker (eds) 2003Diachronic Perspectives on Address Term Systems. Amsterdam: Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Buyle and De Smet 2018Buyle, Anouk, and Hendrik De Smet 2018 “Meaning in a Changing Paradigm: The Semantics of you and the Pragmatics of thou .” Language Sciences 68: 42–55. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Furthermore, drama texts are particularly useful for an analysis of address usage. They give access to many different and easily identifiable speaker-addressee relations. Stage directions too are particularly useful when describing turns in terms of power and solidarity. Finally, as drama texts consist almost entirely of dialogues, nominal address terms occur frequently and enable a quantitative approach.

3.2Annotation procedure

For each turn in the corpus, address terms have been identified, as well as the speaker and the addressee. Each turn has also been annotated for power and solidarity, which have been shown to affect a speaker’s address choices. As a first step, power and solidarity have been interpreted in terms of stable social roles. This means that, typically, all the turns in which one speaker addresses one fixed interlocutor (e.g. all the turns in which Philip addresses Thomas in The Madras House) receive the same value for power (e.g. level) and for solidarity (e.g. close). As a second step, power and solidarity have been interpreted as context-dependent dimensions, and the speech acts with which address terms occur have been identified. The following paragraphs explain how these three determinants, i.e. power, solidarity and context, have been operationalized.

The annotation of speaker-addressee relations along the stable power and solidarity dimensions is primarily based on social role sets, such as parent-child or husband-wife. These role sets have been identified and classified according to their relevance for power (cf. Table 2) and solidarity (cf. Table 3) in reliance on previous research on address usage or politeness (Brown and Gilman 1960Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar; Bates and Benigni 1975Bates, Elizabeth, and Laura Benigni 1975 “Rules of Address in Italy: A Sociological Survey.” Language in Society 4: 271–288. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Hook 1984Hook, Donald D. 1984 “First Names and Titles as Solidarity and Power Semantics in English.” International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching 22 (3): 183–189. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Jaramillo 1996Jaramillo, June 1996 “ Tu and usted .” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 18: 522–532. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Spencer-Oatey 1996Spencer-Oatey, Helen 1996 “Reconsidering Power and Distance.” Journal of Pragmatics 26: 1–24. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Moreno 2002Moreno, María C. 2002 “The Address System in the Spanish of the Golden Age.” Journal of Pragmatics 34: 15–47. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Fanego 2005Fanego, Teresa 2005 “ ‘Fare thee well, dame’: Shakespeare’s Forms of Address and Their Socio-Affective Role.” Sederi 15: 23–42.Google Scholar; Hickey and Stewart 2005Hickey, Leo, and Miranda Stewart 2005Politeness in Europe. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Clyne et al. 2006Clyne, Michael, Heinz-L. Kretzenbacher, Catrin Norrby, and Doris Schüpbach 2006 “Perceptions of Variation and Change in German and Swedish Address.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 10 (3): 287–319. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Levshina 2017Levshina, Natalia 2017 “A Multivariate Study of T/V Forms in European Languages Based on a Parallel Corpus of Film Subtitles.” Research in Language 15 (2): 153–172. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Mainly based on these role sets, speaker-addressee relations in our corpus have received values for the stable power and solidarity dimensions. The power determinant has three possible values: upward, downward and level. Speaker-addressee relations have been marked as upward when the addressee has the ability to influence the speaker, while the speaker does not; they have been marked as downward when the speaker has the ability to influence the addressee, while the addressee does not; and they have been marked as level when there is no obvious power asymmetry. For instance, when the leader of a group addresses a regular member, the speaker has the ability to influence the addressee, which means the speaker-addressee relation is marked as downward. The solidarity determinant has three possible values: distant, close and service. Speaker-addressee relations have been marked as distant when speaker and addressee have never interacted before or had limited contact; and they have been marked as close when speaker and addressee interact regularly, with high degrees of emotional involvement. For instance, if speaker and addressee are immediate colleagues, they can be expected to interact regularly and be involved in each other’s lives, which means the speaker-addressee relation is marked as close. The master-servant role set has been classified separately and labelled service, and includes relations in which speaker and addressee find themselves in a master-servant relationship. The master-servant role set has received a separate value for solidarity because, contrary to other role sets, solidarity can be asymmetrical: servants can be very much involved in their masters’ lives, while masters know little about their servants’ personal affairs.

In most cases, speaker-addressee relations can be described by means of the same role set during the entire play, but this is not always the case. Interlocutors can adopt new roles, and their values for power or solidarity might change. Changes usually occur after time lapses, which coincide with changes of scene. For instance, two young people might meet for the first time in one scene, and be in love in the next scene. In that case, the role set assigned to this speaker-addressee relation changes from ‘strangers’ (distant) to ‘lovers’ (close). Importantly, although role sets are relatively uncontroversial measures of power and solidarity, they do not always translate easily to the power and solidarity dynamics in real life or, for that matter, fiction, which are often more complex. For instance, two interlocutors might be brothers (level), but also boss and employee (upward/downward), and in practice, these role sets are not easily distinguishable. Moreover, as the plays in our corpus often deliberately violate social rules, the translation of role sets to the universes of the plays might become potentially problematic. For instance, while it seems rather unlikely that the boss of a factory would have considered an employee as his equal in the beginning of the 20th century, it is quite plausible in Galsworthy’s Strife, where a strike rearranges traditional hierarchies. For these reasons, we have made adjustments to the annotations based on role sets if the plot gives clear evidence that they are inconsistent with actual power or solidarity dynamics (see above). A final note on the annotation procedure for the power determinant considers the speaker-addressee relations that do not correspond with any previously established role sets (as summarized in Table 2). Those relations have been classified as level, unless the plot gives unambiguous evidence of the contrary.

Table 2.Role sets relevant to the power dimension
Power value Role set
upward/downward leader of a group/regular member of a group; company hierarchy (different levels); teacher/student; employed service provider/customer; family members (different generations); master/servant; adult/child; caretaker/elderly patient; gangster/victim; homeowner/boarder; official/citizen; nobility/commoner; rich (does not have to work)/poor (needs to work)
level company hierarchy (same level); self-employed service provider/customer; family members (same generation); husband/wife; young lovers
Table 3.Role sets relevant to the solidarity dimension
Solidarity value Role set
distant strangers; interlocutors who are relatively unacquainted with each other
close (nuclear) family; in-laws; in-laws-to-be; friends; lovers; colleagues; neighbours (live in the same town)
service master/servant

Context has been interpreted in terms of speech act pragmatics. For each address term under investigation, speech acts have been identified in the communicative units (henceforth C-units) to which the address terms belong. In order to distinguish between different C-units, we follow Leech, who defines the C-unit as “a unit with optimal syntactic independence, in that it is not part of a larger syntactic unit, except by means of coordination” (1999 1999 “The Distribution and Function of Vocatives in American and British English Conversation.” In Out of Corpora, ed. by Hilde Hasselgård, and Signe Oksefjell, 107–118. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar, 108). For all instances in our corpus, C-units correspond with the orthographic units divided by full stops, (semi-)colons, exclamation marks or question marks. The identification of speech acts is based on Weigand’s dialogic principle, which claims that individual speech acts are part of a dialogic sequence, including an initiative and a reactive action (2009Weigand Edda 2009Language as Dialogue. Edited by Sebastian Feller. Amsterdam: Benjamins.Google Scholar, 30). In our analysis, the C-unit is always considered as part of such a dialogic sequence: other units within the speaker’s turn, as well as the addressee’s initiative or reactive action within the same dialogic sequence, influence the identification of the C-unit’s speech act. An example of such a dialogic sequence can be found in (3). In the first turn, Maggie takes the initiative and expresses her worries about the future, while in the second turn, Lily reacts by reassuring Maggie. The speech act in the C-unit to which the address term dear belongs can only be properly analyzed as part of the dialogic sequence: Lily’s aim is to reassure Maggie, and not to make a mere statement about the future.

(3)
  1. [Maggie to Lily] I wish I was a good housekeeper, Lil.

  2. [Lily to Maggie] Oh, you’ll soon learn, dear ; and his other housekeeper wasn’t very good. (BAK1911)

As a next step, speech acts are organized according to Leech’s speech act classification (1983). In the same vein as Brown and Levinson (1987)Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, Leech classifies speech acts according to how they relate to the social goal of establishing and maintaining comity (1983Leech, Geoffrey 1983Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.Google Scholar). He distinguishes four functional types: competitive, convivial, collaborative and conflictive speech acts (as summarized in Table 4). Leech (1983)Leech, Geoffrey 1983Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.Google Scholar tentatively remarks that with collaborative speech acts, politeness seems largely irrelevant, while with convivial speech acts, positive politeness is most likely. He also notes that with competitive speech acts, negative politeness can be expected, while impoliteness strategies are likely occur with conflictive speech acts. In other words, collaborative speech acts might be considered as face-neutral, convivial speech acts as face-enhancing, and competitive and conflictive speech acts as face-threatening.

Table 4.Leech’s speech act classification (1983Leech, Geoffrey 1983Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.Google Scholar)
Speech act type Definition and examples
collaborative the illocutionary goal is indifferent to the social goal; e.g. asserting, reporting, announcing, instructing
convivial the illocutionary goal coincides with the social goal; e.g. offering, inviting, greeting, thanking, congratulating
competitive the illocutionary goal competes with the social goal; e.g. ordering, asking, demanding, begging
conflictive the illocutionary goal conflicts with the social goal; e.g. threatening, accusing, cursing, reprimanding

By exhaustively listing all the speech acts an address term occurs with, we hope to gain more insight into its pragmatic functions.

4.Results

Based on the coding of address terms for power, solidarity and context, it is possible to identify functional profiles. First, we aim to describe my’s functional profile in terms of the stable power and solidarity dimensions. To this end, the number of turns in which my occurs are compared with the number of turns that contain nominal address terms, but not my. Note that this measure for comparison only serves as a first step in the analysis and is to be thought of as strictly exploratory, since it contains many different address terms and does not make a difference between turns that consist of more than one address term and those that do not. Still, it gives an instructive first impression of my’s position in the corpus.

Figures 1 and 2.Power and solidarity: my and other nominal address terms
fig1.svg
fig2.svg

Figure 1 shows the distribution of turns with my for power and reveals that my, in comparison with other nominal address terms, is more often used in turns marked as downward (p < 0.001, χ² = 12.915, df = 1). Figure 2, in comparison, shows that the distribution of solidarity values for my is, on the whole, not significantly different from the distribution for other nominal address terms. Arguably, power is more important than solidarity in explaining my’s meaning. At the same time, it is important to note that my is in fact very versatile, occurring in all relation types as defined by power and solidarity, which in the end may be consistent with its function as a modulating element. This is also evident from Table 5, which lists all nominal address terms that are modified by my.

Table 5.Nominal address terms modified by my
Address term Frequency
dear + noun 139
given name  54
variant of given name  17
kin term  15
title + surname  12
boy  11
(little) girl  10
friend, lady + surname   3
admiral, (sweet) child, duchess, lad, lady, surname   2
captain + surname, chap   1
dear  79
honorific (no other modifiers than my)  75
lord  40
lady  35
other  48
(good, little, own) girl  12
(poor) boy  11
darling   4
friend, love, (good, old) man   3
lad, (good) given name   2
(good) child, dearest, friend + surname, (good) lady, son, surname, (pretty) teacher, wife   1

The overview in Table 5 shows how, based on corpus frequencies, the address terms modified by my can be divided into three large groups and a smaller residual group. My most often modifies dear, which functions as a modifier itself (139 occurrences). When dear does not modify other address terms, it can combine with my in the address formula my dear (79 occurrences). My also occurs in combination with the honorifics lord and lady, unmodified by other adjectives (75 occurrences). Finally, a number of various other address terms combine with my, often including additional modifying adjectives (e.g. my girl, my poor boy). Note that some honorifics can occur in combination with my and dear (e.g. my dear lady) as well as with my and good (e.g. my good lady).

As a next step in the analysis, the investigation of my’s functional profile will focus on the address terms most frequently modified by my, i.e. dear and lord/lady. This makes it possible to compare attestations of specific address formulae in which my is either present or absent. An examination of the alternation between my with a specific address term and the same address term used without my provides a more informative measure for comparison than the diverse group of address terms in the first step of the analysis. With respect to (my) dear, only those instances in which dear does not modify other address terms have been selected for analysis, since the variation of address terms modified by my dear would again complicate the investigation of my’s functional profile. For example, at first sight, it seems possible to examine the alternation between my dear given name and dear given name, but even though the former address formula has 54 attestations in the corpus, the latter only has six, which does not suffice for a comparison. In what follows, results will be discussed for the analysis of (my) dear (cf. Section 4.1) as well as for the analysis of (my) lord/lady (cf. Section 4.2)

4.1 First alternation: Dear and my dear

Figures 3 and 4 show how dear (when it is not modified by my), as in (4a), and my dear, as in (4b), are characterized in terms of the stable power and solidarity dimensions. In the final bar of each plot, the number of turns with nominal address terms other than dear or my dear, have been summarized to obtain an additional level of comparison.

(4)
  1. But, dear, how do you know what Captain Bastling means to say to you to-morrow? (PIN1899)

  2. My dear, you sometimes say things which explain to me why my brother-in-law so frequently abandoned his own fireside for the platform of Exeter Hall. (MAU1912)

Figures 3 and 4.Power and solidarity: dear, my dear and other nominal address terms
fig3.svg
fig4.svg

With respect to power, both dear and my dear occur less often in turns marked as upward in comparison with other nominal address terms (p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 29.142, df = 1 and p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 28.72, df = 1), which confirms Anglemark’s analysis of dear (2018Anglemark, Linnéa 2018 “ ‘Heav’n bess you, my Dear’: Using the ESDD Corpus to Investigate Address Terms in Historical Drama Dialogue.” Journal of Historical Pragmatics 19 (2): 186–204. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). While dear is more frequent than other nominal address terms in turns marked as level and less frequent in turns marked as downward, my dear occurs more often in turns marked as downward. Furthermore, a comparison between dear and my dear shows that my dear is more frequent than dear in turns marked as downward (p < 0.001, χ² = 26.082, df = 1) and less frequent in turns marked as level (p < 0.001, χ² = 22.516, df = 1). These findings indicate that, when my modifies an address term with a pronouncedly level profile, the newly combined address term becomes more closely associated with downward interactions. With respect to solidarity, both dear and my dear are more frequent in turns marked as close than other nominal address terms (p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 26.096, df = 1 and p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 11.023, df = 1). Still, while dear occurs in close turns only, my dear occurs in five turns marked as distant as well (p < 0.05, Yates’ χ² = 4.079, df = 1). These five attestations of distant my dear can be found in two different speaker-addressee relations, both marked as downward (i.e. when an older countess and homeowner addresses a young shop assistant, and when a wealthy client addresses her dressmaker). Also, four out of five attestations occur in disagreements or complaints directed towards the addressee (as in (5)), when exerting power is especially important. A plausible interpretation, then, is that, in these five turns, solidarity is overruled by power, i.e. my dear’s strong association with downward interactions is more relevant in explaining the speaker’s choice for my dear, than its association with close interactions.

(5)
  1. Oh, this garden! they may well call it heavenly.

  2. [distant, downward, disagreeing] They ought not to call it that, my dear (…) (PIN1899)

In order to refine the analysis for power and solidarity, the next part of the comparison between dear and my dear will focus on the speech acts with which they occur. For each occurrence of dear and my dear, speech acts have been identified and organized according to Leech’s speech act classification (1983Leech, Geoffrey 1983Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman.Google Scholar). An overview of the different categories and speech acts attested in our analysis can be found in Table 6. Note that the speech act requesting subsumes a number of different directives, including orders, advice, proposals, invitations and suggestions (Risselada 1993Risselada, Rodie 1993Imperatives and Other Directive Expressions in Latin: A Study in the Pragmatics of a Dead Language. Amsterdam: Gieben. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 48). The classification in Table 6 is of course not unambiguous, and some speech acts could belong to other categories. Especially some of the conflictive speech acts are often also competitive. When a speaker complains about something the addressee has done, the speaker’s social goal is not only to let the addressee know that the speaker has been wronged in some way, but also to get the addressee to change future behavior. In her analysis of complaints, Trosborg indeed remarks that complaints are representative of Leech’s conflictive function (1995Trosborg, Anna 1995Interlanguage Pragmatics: Requests, Complaints and Apologies. Berlin: de Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 312), but she also demonstrates that when a complaint is issued, a directive act (= competitive speech act) may be implied (1995, 320). Arguably, the same can be said for threats and disagreements. With respect to the collaborative type, it is clear that the illocutionary goals of speech acts such as asking for information, confirmation or clarification are not entirely indifferent to the social goal: the speaker wants something from the addressee, and in that way, they resemble competitive speech acts. However, as the cost for the addressee is quite low, especially in comparison to requests, they have been classified here as collaborative.

Table 6.Speech acts with (my) dear and (my) lord/lady
Speech act types Speech acts
collaborative stating; asking for information, confirmation or clarification; answering question (information); asking for attention
convivial agreeing; complying with request; offering help; giving permission; assuring; wishing well; greeting; taking leave; consoling; expressing sympathy, compassion, joy or relief for the addressee; praising; accepting praise; thanking; apologizing
competitive requesting; asking for permission; warning
conflictive disagreeing; declining request; threatening; complaining; criticizing; boasting; insulting; expressing disapproval, disdain or scepticism; defying

Five attestations of dear and five attestations of my dear have been excluded from the speech act analysis. Some attestations are stand-alone address terms (as in (6a)), which means that the speech acts cannot be determined for the C-units in which these address terms occur. Other attestations resemble expletive dear (as in (6b)). For these attestations, it is difficult to determine whether they primarily function as address terms, or as expletives expressing surprise.

(6)
  1. Four and sixpence! Dear! it’s a pity you can’t put it on the Grand Yorkshire! (…) (BEL1910)

  2. My dear, coming all this way with it! Why didn’t you telephone? (BAR1910)

Figure 5 gives an overview of the speech act types both dear and my dear occur with. While dear is more frequent with collaborative and convivial speech acts (p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 23.712, df = 1 and p < 0.05, χ² = 6.835, df = 1), as in (7) and (8), my dear is more frequent with conflictive speech acts (p < 0.001, χ² = 49.979, df = 1), as in (9). With competitive speech acts (e.g. (10)), both dear and my dear are rather infrequent, and differences are not statistically significant. Figure 6, too, gives an overview of the speech act types for dear and my dear, but only includes attestations in the nine speaker-addressee relations that allow switching between dear and my dear. In those relations especially, the choice for dear or my dear has to be contextually motivated. Importantly, the distribution in Figure 6 is similar to the distribution of all attestations of dear and my dear (cf. Figure 5), which shows that a speech act analysis does indeed make it possible to investigate context-dependent changes in power and solidarity, i.e. observed differences in speech acts do not merely reflect stable power and solidarity dynamics.

(7)
  1. [level, close, asking for information] What time is it, dear?

  2. Half-past one. Lunch-time. (PIN1899)

(8)
  1. Cremation is best with dead loves too.

  2. [level, close, thanking] (When the envelope is burnt.) Thank you, dear. (MAU1912)

(9)
  1. (He raises his eyes from his book and gives her a significant look. Leaning upon the arm of the settee, she says faintly.) You-you-!

  2. [down, close, threatening/complaining] Yes, I tell you again, my dear, you have got yourself into a shocking mess. You’ve got me into a mess, and you’ve got yourself in a mess. (PIN1899)

(10)

[down, close, requesting] Now you must pack off to bed, my dear (…) (MAU1912)

Figure 5.Context: dear and my dear (all relations)
Figure 5.
Figure 6.Context: dear and my dear (turns in speaker-addressee relations that allow both options)
Figure 6.

Interestingly, most conflictive speech acts my dear occurs with are complaints, disagreements and threats, and all conflictive speech acts dear occurs with are disagreements. Precisely these speech acts are often competitive as well as conflictive. If we also take into account that purely competitive speech acts are rather infrequent with both dear and my dear, we can conclude that, when dear and my dear occur with speech acts that signal that the speaker wants something from the addressee, these speech acts usually also involve an element of conflict. This is not surprising: endearments are most likely to occur as positive politeness strategies. Furthermore, as the overview in Figure 6 shows, especially my dear frequently occurs with these competitive-conflictive speech acts. In (11), for instance, Maggie says she is in no hurry to get married, and her mother responds with a complaint: she thinks Maggie should not have said that (= conflictive), and she also wants to prevent Maggie from talking about marriage in that way in the future (= competitive). The high frequency of my dear with conflictive-competitive speech acts is related to findings for the power determinant: if speakers show that they find the addressee’s behavior or opinions problematic and make clear that they want the addressee to make changes, they are likely to exert power over the addressee. At the same time, my dear’s close association with face-threatening acts (i.e. competitive-conflictive speech acts), in contrast to dear’s preference for face-neutral and face-enhancing speech acts (i.e. collaborative and convivial speech acts), says something about context-dependent solidarity as well. As the results for the stable solidarity determinant have shown, most attestations of both dear and my dear can be found in close interactions. Dear’s association with closeness is clearly reflected in the high frequency of dear with face-enhancing acts, which are expected to occur with positive politeness strategies. With face-enhancing acts, dear mainly strengthens the already solidary act. My dear’s association with closeness, on the other hand, is of a different nature. With face-threatening acts, the use of politeness strategies, such as my dear, does not merely support the speech act involved, but is meant to soften the threat to the addressee’s face. One could thus argue that, while dear reflects an already existing level of intimacy, my dear’s function is to temporarily evoke a degree of solidarity that is not inherent to the context in which it occurs. So, although the analysis for the stable solidarity dimension did not reveal any significant distinctions between dear and my dear, the contextual analysis does show some functional differences in terms of solidarity.

(11)
  1. [Maggie to her mother] I’m in no hurry.

  2. [Mother to Maggie] Don’t talk like that, my dear. (BAK1911)

In conclusion, the analysis of dear and my dear for power, solidarity and context shows that (1) dear mainly signals symmetry with respect to the power dimension, and closeness with respect to the solidarity dimension; and that (2) by adding my, the address formula may signal that speakers want to exert power over the addressee, and that they want to increase solidarity with the addressee because they need something that inherently clashes with the addressee’s feelings and wishes. Adding my to an address term that reflects level power dynamics and close solidarity dynamics creates a new address formula that is more closely associated with downward power dynamics and temporarily increased closeness.

Interestingly, the functional differences between dear and my dear are also reflected in gender-related differences. Figure 7 gives an overview of the distribution of dear, my dear and other nominal address terms in the corpus for gender. Turns have been coded for the gender of both speaker and addressee, and labelled as male-male, female-female, male-female and female-male. Figure 7 shows that both dear and my dear are obsolete in male-male interactions and occur almost equally often in female-female interactions. However, dear is significantly more frequent in female-male interactions, while my dear occurs more often in male-female interactions (p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 53.765, df = 1). Our findings confirm the claim that endearments are rare in male-male interactions (Leech 1999 1999 “The Distribution and Function of Vocatives in American and British English Conversation.” In Out of Corpora, ed. by Hilde Hasselgård, and Signe Oksefjell, 107–118. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar). Furthermore, my dear, which is more closely associated with exerting power and face-threatening acts, is more often used by male speakers when addressing women. By contrast, dear, which merely reflects power symmetry and closeness, is more often used by female speakers when addressing men. If we assume that gender inequality was an integral part of British society in the period between 1899 and 1912 (Thompson 1990Thompson, Francis M. L. (ed) 1990The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750–1950. Cambridge: CUP.Google Scholar; Mahood 1995Mahood, Linda 1995Policing Gender, Class and Family: Britain, 1850–1940. London: UCL Press.Google Scholar; Holloway 2005Holloway, Gerry 2005Women and Work in Britain since 1840. London: Routledge.Google Scholar; Davis 2014Davis, Angela 2014Modern Motherhood, Women and Family in England, c. 1945–2000. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar), it is not surprising that inequality is also reflected in the address system, as a core resource for realizing social deixis.

Figure 7.Gender: dear, my dear and other nominal address terms
Figure 7.

Recall that for the analysis of the alternation between dear and my dear, only those instances of dear in which it does not modify other address terms have been selected. Where dear or my dear are followed by a nominal address term, the number of comparable collocations is too small. Still, it is possible to investigate which nouns are modified by dear and my dear. The overview in Table 7 shows that dear most often modifies lady + surname, which is less frequently modified by my dear (p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 25.839, df = 1). This corresponds with findings for power and solidarity, as lady + surname is most frequent in turns marked as upward and close. Furthermore, given name is more often modified by my dear than by dear (p < 0.02, Yates’ χ² = 6.09, df = 1), which corresponds with findings for power, as given name is attested in turns marked as level (380 instances) as well as down (209 instances).

Table 7.Nominal address terms modified by dear and by my dear
Address term Frequency
dear + noun  38
lady + surname  11
given name, title + surname   6
boy   4
admiral, (old) chap, (young) lady   2
child, creature, kin term, pupil, variant of given name   1
my dear + noun 139
given name  54
variant of given name  17
kin term  15
title + surname  12
boy  11
(little) girl  10
friend, lady + surname   3
admiral, (sweet) child, duchess, lad, lady, surname   2
captain + surname, chap   1

4.2 Second alternation: My lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship

The next part of the analysis aims to compare the functional profiles of my lord/lady, as in (12a) and your lordship/ladyship, as in (12b). Importantly, this analysis is less straightforward than the comparison between dear and my dear. My honorific rarely if ever alternates with unmodulated forms. However, my honorific does alternate with address formulae of the type your honorific, often within the same speaker-addressee relation. The alternation is complicated because the comparison includes, to some extent, lexical variation (e.g. lord versus lordship) as well as syntactic variation (i.e. in this corpus, my lord/lady is a vocative (Zwicky 1974Zwicky, Arnold 1974 “Hey, Whatsyourname!” In Papers from the 10th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, ed. by Michael W. La Galy, Robert Fox, and Anthony Brack, 787–801. Chicago: CLS.Google Scholar), while your lordship/ladyship only occurs as an argument of a verb). Nevertheless, the contrast between my honorific and your honorific offers another opportunity to pinpoint the functional contribution of my, as the following analysis shows.

(12)
  1. No trouble at all, my lord-quite an honour. (PIN1899)

  2. But I’d rather your lordship let me out without the bother- (Piteously.) Do! (PIN1899)

Overall, 75 attestations of my lord/lady and 20 attestations of your lordship/ladyship have been coded for power, solidarity and context. Importantly, 19 out of 20 attestations of your lordship/ladyship occur in speaker-addressee relations in which my lord/lady is also attested. Since the number of turns per speaker-addressee relation can heavily skew the results, a comparison for the stable power and solidarity dimensions at the level of the turn is not revealing. At the level of the speaker-addressee relation, results do show that, for power, your lordship/ladyship occurs only in relations coded as upward, while my lord/lady is attested in speaker-addressee relations coded as upward, and to a lesser extent, as level. Interestingly, when a modifying adjective is included in the address formula (e.g. my good lady, my dear lady), attestations can also be found in speaker-addressee relations marked as downward. With respect to solidarity, results show that both your lordship/ladyship and my lord/lady occur in service, distant as well as close speaker-addressee relations. Tentatively, we can say that your lordship/ladyship is more closely associated with upward power dynamics than my lord/lady, while for solidarity, no notable differences can be observed.

Both my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship co-occur in four different speaker-addressee relations. In order to investigate how switching is motivated by speech act pragmatics, attestations of both address formulae in these four speaker-addressee relations have been coded for context. Note that one attestation of my lord, which is a stand-alone address formula, has been excluded from the analysis. Figure 8 gives an overview of the speech act types with which we find my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship.

Figure 8.Context: my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship
Figure 8.

While your lordship/ladyship is more frequent with competitive speech acts (p < 0.001, Yates’ χ² = 16.866, df = 1) (see, for instance (13)), my lord/lady seems more likely to occur with collaborative, conflictive and convivial speech acts (see, for instance, (1416)).

(13)
  1. Ha! (Calmly.) No, my dear Sophy, I wasn’t aware that your fiancé is in the house. So the situation comes home to you a little more poignantly now, does it?

  2. [up, close, requesting] Oh, won’t your lordship trust me? (PIN1899)

(14)
  1. How long have you been with Mr. Fouldes?

  2. [up, service, answering question (information)] Twenty-five years, my lady. (MAU1912)

(15)
  1. [up, close, taking leave/wishing well] (Impulsively, offering him her hand.) I wish you luck, my lord.

  2. (He takes her hand and wrings it.) (PIN1899)

(16)
  1. Yes, I tell you again, my dear, you have got yourself into a shocking mess.

    You’ve got me into a mess, and you’ve got yourself in a mess.

  2. [up, close, insulting] (Pulling herself up and advancing to him till she faces him.) You-you are an awful blackguard, my lord. (PIN1899)

In brief, speakers especially opt for my lord/lady with face-neutral and face-enhancing speech acts, as well as with face-threatening acts that are in conflict with the social goal of establishing and maintaining comity. In comparison, your lordship/ladyship is the preferred option when speakers want something from the addressee, and is most likely employed as a negative politeness strategy. As such, findings for speech act pragmatics tie in with our tentative conclusion regarding power: your lordship/ladyship uniquely occurs in upward speaker-addressee relations and is most often used with face-threatening acts that can be mitigated by signaling deference. My lord/lady, on the other hand, occurs in level as well as upward speaker-addressee relations, and is most often used with speech acts that do not require emphasis on existing power dynamics. Admittedly, my lord/lady occurs in a variety of situations, in contrast to your lordship/ladyship, which has a more clearly delineated functional profile. Still, results definitely show that the variation between both address formulae is functionally motivated. Also note that these findings are consistent with the syntactic difference between my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship. By placing your lordship/ladyship in subject or object position, speakers have the opportunity to avoid direct address by means of the second-person pronoun you, which also mitigates the attack on the addressee’s face.

In previous research on speech acts and politeness, requests especially have received a lot of attention. Interestingly, Blum-Kulka and Olshtain (1984)Blum-Kulka, Shoshana, and Elite Olshtain 1984 “Requests and Apologies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns (CCSARP).” Applied Linguistics 5 (3): 196–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar classify requests based on the degree of directness, which influences the degree of imposition involved in the speech act, i.e. the strength of a face-threatening act or the degree to which it interferes with the addressee’s face (Brown and Levinson 1987Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson 1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: CUP. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Blum-Kulka and Olshtain (1984)Blum-Kulka, Shoshana, and Elite Olshtain 1984 “Requests and Apologies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns (CCSARP).” Applied Linguistics 5 (3): 196–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar argue that the strength of a face-threatening act can be minimized by choosing an indirect realization of requests over a direct realization. They propose three different levels of directness: direct requests, conventionally indirect requests and non-conventionally indirect requests. Direct requests are weaker face-threatening acts than conventionally indirect requests, which are in turn weaker threats to the addressee’s face than non-conventionally indirect requests. If switching between my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship can be explained by speech act pragmatics, variation between both address formulae might not only be affected by the presence and type of face-threatening acts involved, but also by the strength of the face-threatening acts. If we assume that your lordship/ladyship is the preferred option when conveying negative politeness, your lordship/ladyship can be expected to occur more often with indirect requests than with direct requests. The opposite should be true for my lord/lady. For the present study, we have analyzed the requests based on the classification scheme proposed by Blum-Kulka and Olshtain (1984)Blum-Kulka, Shoshana, and Elite Olshtain 1984 “Requests and Apologies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns (CCSARP).” Applied Linguistics 5 (3): 196–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar and Economidou-Kogetsidis (2010)Economidou-Kogetsidis, Maria 2010 “Cross-Cultural and Situational Variation in Requesting Behavior: Perceptions of Social Situations and Strategic Usage of Request Patterns.” Journal of Pragmatics 42: 2262–2281. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, which can be found in Table 8. This overview lists the three request types and the different speech act realizations for each type. The realizations of requests in the second column are positioned on a cline from most direct (top) to most indirect (bottom). Examples for each request realization can be found in the third column.

Table 8.Classification of requests according to their level of (in)directness (Blum-Kulka and Olshtain 1984Blum-Kulka, Shoshana, and Elite Olshtain 1984 “Requests and Apologies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns (CCSARP).” Applied Linguistics 5 (3): 196–213. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Economidou-Kogetsidis 2010Economidou-Kogetsidis, Maria 2010 “Cross-Cultural and Situational Variation in Requesting Behavior: Perceptions of Social Situations and Strategic Usage of Request Patterns.” Journal of Pragmatics 42: 2262–2281. CrossrefGoogle Scholar)
Level of (in)directness Realization speech act Example
direct request imperative Leave me alone.
explicit performative Please look after the kids for the evening.
hedged performative I’m here to ask for an extension.
obligation statement Madam, you’ll have to move your car.
want or need statement I really wish you’d stop bothering me.
conventionally indirect request suggestion How about cleaning up?
reference to preparatory conditions (e.g. ability, volition or possibility) Would you mind moving your car, please?
non-conventionally indirect request strong hint You’ve left this kitchen in a right mess.
mild hint I’m a nun. (in response to a persistent boy)

The overview in Figure 9 shows how the requests with my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship are classified in terms of directness. While most attestations of my lord/lady occur with direct requests, your lordship/ladyship is most frequent with conventionally, and especially non-conventionally indirect requests. These findings appear to conform with our hypothesis, but the data are obviously too sparse to attain significant differences.

Figure 9.Requests: Levels of directness
Figure 9.

Examples of my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship with direct requests can be found in (17a) and (17b). All direct requests with my lord/lady contain imperatives, which are positioned at the most direct end of the (in)directness scale (position 1). The direct requests with your lordship/ladyship are less direct than those with my lord/lady: they both contain want statements (position 4). In (18a), your lordship/ladyship occurs with a conventionally indirect request, while the only attestation of my lord/lady with a conventionally indirect request can be found in (18b). The request in (18b) is a suggestion, i.e. the most direct realization of conventionally indirect requests. With non-conventionally indirect requests, your lordship/ladyship is the only option (as in (19)).

(17)
  1. [imperative (1)] Show me your nails, my lord. (PIN1899)

  2. [want statement (4)] I hope your lordship will kindly let me go. (PIN1899)

(18)
  1. [reference to possibility/volition (7)] If your lordship has quite done with me-? (PIN1899)

  2. [suggestion (6)] It’s not quite two, my lord; if you like, you’ve just time to run in next door and have your palm read. (PIN1899)

(19)

[strong hint (7)] Has your lordship got the key of this door? (PIN1899)

In conclusion, the analysis of my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship for power, solidarity and context shows that (1) your lordship/ladyship is mainly used to signal deference, especially when mitigation is necessary, i.e. when the speaker needs something from the addressee; and that (2) my lord/lady is less often used as a negative politeness strategy than your lordship/ladyship, and when my lord/lady does express deference, reinforcing upward power dynamics is less urgent.

5.Conclusion

The results for the analysis of (my) dear and (my) honorific show that my in early twentieth-century address formulae has a complex functional profile, that can be described in terms of Brown and Gilman’s power-and-solidarity model (1960Brown, Roger, and Albert Gilman 1960 “The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity.” In Style in Language, ed. by Thomas A. Sebeok, 253–276. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar). The comparison between dear and my dear reveals that, when my modulates an address term that marks a high degree of solidarity and mostly occurs in the absence of hierarchical power dynamics, my’s functional import is mainly situated in the power dimension. The resulting address formula with my retains its association with closeness in the solidarity dimension, but becomes more closely associated with downward power dynamics. This way, our results correspond with Busse’s suggestion for my in Shakespearean English, i.e. that my indicates a sense of dominance and possession (2006, 198). Furthermore, findings for the gender parameter show that my dear is especially frequent in male-female interactions, while dear occurs most often in female-male interactions. The comparison between my lord/lady and your lordship/ladyship reveals that, when my modulates an address term that construes the addressee as more powerful than the speaker and seems to have no clear meaning in terms of solidarity, the functional import of my is mainly situated in the solidarity dimension. The resulting address formula with my retains its association with upward power dynamics (although less pronouncedly so), and becomes more frequent with speech acts that are face-neutral and face-enhancing (i.e. that occur most often with positive politeness strategies). As such, findings for my indeed corroborate Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg’s hypothesis for Early Modern English, i.e. that my may be used to intensify the intimacy and affection prevailing between two interlocutors (1995, 556). In short, the analysis of both alternations shows that my’s functional import varies depending on the address term it modifies. When my has impact on the power dimension, the address formula with my construes the addressee as less powerful than the speaker. When my has impact on the solidarity dimension, the address formula with my construes the addressee as a close interlocutor.

Although the results of this study correspond with observations made for earlier stages of English, it should be noted that the analysis of my as described in this paper is limited to address formulae in British English drama texts published between 1899 and 1912. An analysis of my in a corpus with Present-Day English spoken data might be an interesting area for further research. Still, the investigation of my’s functional profile has shown that it is worthwhile to go beyond larger address term categories when examining address formulae, and that speakers’ choices for specific address terms or elements in address formulae are motivated by the same determinants that have been shown to explain variation between pronominal address terms and nominal address term categories. Furthermore, the proposed analysis demonstrates that power and solidarity can not only be interpreted in terms of stable social roles, but also underlie context-driven variation. The investigation of my has indeed shown that the identification of speech acts is particularly helpful in explaining variation in address usage, and especially in accounting for variation within one speaker-addressee relation. Finally, the combination of a qualitative-based annotation procedure and a more quantitative approach to data analysis has made it possible to conduct a functional study and disclose a comprehensive profile of my in address formulae.

Funding

The research presented in this paper has been made possible by the FWO-grant 1129918N “Language change, cultural change? Social deixis through nominal and pronominal address in the history of English.”

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Hendrik De Smet for reading and discussing various earlier versions of this paper.

Note

1.The large amount of terminological variation regarding the power-and-solidarity model has been summarized by Spencer-Oatey (1996)Spencer-Oatey, Helen 1996 “Reconsidering Power and Distance.” Journal of Pragmatics 26: 1–24. CrossrefGoogle Scholar.

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Address for correspondence

Anouk Buyle

Faculty of Arts

KU Leuven

Blijde-Inkomststraat 21

box 3301

3000 Leuven

Belgium

anouk.buyle@kuleuven.be

Biographical notes

Anouk Buyle is currently working on her PhD project “Language change, cultural change? Social deixis through nominal and pronominal address in the history of English”, funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). She is a member of the research group FunC and the linguistics department at the University of Leuven.