Forms of Address in the College Classroom
Wright, Saundra K.
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Forms of address are a critical component of language. They can be used to set the tone of a communicative exchange and index social status. Many languages encode these linguistic forms directly into their grammar; however, in English these politeness distinctions are expressed lexically through word choice as speakers must select amongst various forms of a name (e.g., first/last name) and/or title (e.g., Mr., Mrs., Dr.) when addressing a communicative partner. We are currently seeing changes in speakers’ selections of address forms in American English. This is particularly true in academic settings where most students – and many professors – are now addressed by their first names. In this paper, I look more closely at address forms in the college classroom, looking specifically at what address forms college students are most likely to use and why. My findings suggest that while informal address may be becoming more common in the classroom, the selection of address forms is still far from predictable. Students’ selections of address forms vary according to the particular mode of communication, the degrees of familiarity between the instructor and student, the personality of the instructor, and the type of course being taught.