Melbourne Address Projects

Most languages other than English have more than one pronoun of address, eg 'tu' and 'vous' in French. The choice of address pronoun and other ways people address each other is crucial to interpersonal communication as it both reflects and influences social relations and hierarchies.

The choice of address pronoun also depends on various contextual factors, such as the number of people addressed, the social relationship between the speaker and the addressee, and the speech situation. The study of address systems thus has significance for linguistics and other research into social structures and social change.

RUMACCC researchers have long been involved in research on terms of address and collaborate internationally within the International Network of Address Research (INAR). A number of major research projects have been located at RUMACCC and are listed below.

Melbourne Address Pronoun European Typology (MAPET) project

The MAPET project aims to be the most detailed and inclusive survey and analysis so far of address pronouns across Europe - from Iceland to the Caucasus - focusing not only on identifying the forms used, but also their pragmatic use, historical sources, shared features across areo-genetic space, regional and individual variation and their synchronic grammatical properties. It is much larger in scale and greater in detail than any previous survey of address pronouns in Europe with the expectation that it will provide valuable new typological data for address research.

In addition to knowing when and how to use each pronoun appropriately from a pragmatic perspective, the project also focuses on the collection of basic grammatical information, eg with regard to referent agreement patterns between the pronoun and other parts of speech. Even where address pronoun systems are identified in grammars for specific languages, detail is often lacking, not dealing with agreement questions beyond pronoun-verb agreement or overlooking such forms of address pronouns that are typical for non-standard varieties of a language or for non-dominant varieties of pluricentric languages.

We also seek to establish what the possible sources of address pronouns systems in Europe are, since the existence of a formal/informal pronoun dichotomy or more complex systems is historically relatively recent, at least in Indo-European languages.

  • Selected publications


    • Formentelli, Maicol and Hajek, John. "Address in Italian academic interactions: The power of distance and (non-)reciprocity," in Norrby, Catrin and Wide, Camilla (eds.), Address Practice as Social Action: European Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 119-139
    • Norrby, Catrin and Wide, Camilla (eds.), Address Practice as Social Action: European Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015
    • Schüpbach, Doris. "German or Swiss? Address and other routinised formulas in German-speaking Switzerland," in Hajek, John and Slaughter, Yvette (eds.), Challenging the Monolingual Mindset. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2015, pp. 63-77.


    • Lagerberg, Robert, Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. and Hajek, John. "Forms and patterns of address in Russian: Recent research and future directions," in Australian Slavonic and East European Studies 28, 2014, pp. 179-209


    • Hajek, John, Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. and Lagerberg, Robert. "Towards a linguistic typology of address pronouns in Europe - past and present," in Henderson, John; Ritz, Marie-Eve and Rodriquez Louro, Celeste (eds.), Proceedings of the 2012 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, Perth, 5-7 December 2012
    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L., Hajek John, Lagerberg, Robert and Bresin, Agnese. "Address forms in language contact and language conflict: The curious history and remnants of onikáni in Czech," in Australian Slavonic and East European Studies 27, 2013, pp. 87-103


    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. "Addressing policy on the web: Netiquettes and emerging policies of language use in German Internet forums," in Norrby, Catrin and Hajek, John (eds.), Uniformity and Diversity in Language Policy: Global Perspectives. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2011, pp. 226-241

Pragmatics of address in the L2 classroom in Germany and Australia

The correct use of address forms (eg pronouns and titles) is essential for appropriate communication but is known to be difficult to acquire for second language (L2) students. In this joint project between RUMACCC and the Institut für Deutsch als Fremdsprache (IDF) at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, we examine the L2 address behaviour of German students (in Munich) of Italian and English and of Australian students (in Melbourne) of German and Italian at university level. We are interested in knowing what transfer effects there might be of L1 (first language) on L2 and how they might be addressed - for improved pedagogical outcomes and communication.

This project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Universities Australia as part of the Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme.

Address in intercultural communication in Europe today

European integration has over the last few decades dramatically increased the scope and nature of intercultural communication across Europe. How people address each other across different languages and cultures needs to be understood, as well as managed carefully, since patterns of address in one language and/or culture are not necessarily the same in other languages and cultures. Since 2007 the Melbourne Address Project has been looking at intercultural address involving a small number of large European languages (English, French, German, Italian and Swedish) from a number of different perspectives.

Two specific areas of investigation are the following: (1) intercultural communication involving speakers of pluricentric languages; and (2) intercultural communication in English and other languages at international conferences.

  • Selected publications


    • Formentelli, Maicol and Hajek, John. "Address practices in academic interactions in a pluricentric language: Australian English, American English and British English," in Pragmatics 26(4), 2016, pp. 631-652.


    • Henricson, Sofie, Nelson, Marie, Wide, Camilla, Norrby, Catrin, Nilsson, Jenny and Lindström, Jan. "You and I in Sweden-Swedish and Finland-Swedish supervision meetings," in Muhr, Rudolf and Marley, Dawn (eds.), Pluricentric Languages: New Perspectives in Theory and Description. Frankfurt/M.: Peter Lang, 2015, pp. 113-125
    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L., Clyne, Michael, Hajek, John, Norrby, Catrin and Warren, Jane. "Meet and greet: Nominal address and introductions in intercultural communication at international conferences,"in Hajek, John and Slaughter, Yvette (eds.), Challenging the Monolingual Mindset. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2015, pp. 78-94
    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. and Schüpbach, Doris. "Communities of addressing practice? Address in Internet forums based in German-speaking countries," in Norrby, Catrin and Wide, Camilla (eds.), Address Practice as Social Action: European Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 33-53
    • Norrby, Catrin and Wide, Camilla. "Introduction: Address as social action across cultures and contexts," in Norrby, Catrin and Wide, Camilla (eds.), Address Practice as Social Action: European Perspectives. Basinstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 1-12
    • Norrby, Catrin Wide, Camilla, Lindström, Jan and Nilsson, Jenny. "Interpersonal relationships in medical consultations. Comparing Sweden Swedish and Finland Swedish address practices," in Journal of Pragmatics 84, 2015, pp. 121-138
    • Norrby, Catrin Wide, Camilla, Nilsson, Jenny and Lindström, Jan. "Address and interpersonal relationships in Finland-Swedish and Sweden-Swedish service encounters," in Norrby, Catrin and Wide, Camilla (eds.), Address Practice as Social Action: European Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 75-95


    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. "Sich und andere auf internationalen wissenschaftlichen Konferenzen vorstellen - zur sprachlichen Inszenierung von Kulturalität und lingua franca-Interkulturalität in der Wissenschaftskommunikation," in Meier, Simon, Rellstab, Daniel H. and Schiewer, Gesine (eds.), Dialog und (Inter)Kulturalität: Theorien, Konzepte, empirische Befunde. Tübingen: Narr, 2014.
    • Norrby, Catrin, Wilde, Camilla, Lindström, Jan and Nilsson, Jenny. "Finns det nationella svenska kommunikationsmönster? Tilltal i läkare-patientsamtal i Sverige och Finland," in Nordica Helsingiensia 37, 2014, pp. 343-352


    • Formentelli, Maicol and Hajek, John. "Italian L2 address strategies in an Australian university setting: A comparison with L1 Italian and L1 English practice," in Peeters, Bert, Mullan, Kerry and Béal, Christine (eds.), Cross-Culturally Speaking, Speaking Cross-Culturally. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambrige Scholars Publishing, 2013, pp. 77-105
    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz-L., Hajek, John and Norrby, Catrin. "Address and introductions across two pluricentric languages in intercultural communication,” in Muhr, R. et al (eds.). Exploring Linguistic Standards in Non-Dominant Varieties of Pluricentric Languages. Frankfurt/M.: Peter Lang, 2013, pp. 259-274
    • Norrby, Catrin and Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. "National variation in address in pluricentric languages: The examples of Swedish and German," in Soares da Silva, A. (ed.), Pluricentricity: Language Variation and Sociocognitive Dimensions. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013, pp. 243-269


    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. "Mikropragmatik in kommunikativen Gattungen und plurizentrischer Sprachkultur: Zur Anrede im Deutschen," in Baumann, K. (ed.), Fach - Translat - Kultur: Interdisziplinäre Aspekte der vernetzten Vielfalt, Vol. 2. Berlin: Frank and Timme, 2012, pp. 860-899


    • Clyne, Michael and Norrby Catrin. “Address in Pluricentric Languages - the Case of German and Swedish,” in Soares da Silva, A., Torres, A. and Gonçalves, M. (eds.). Línguas Pluricêntricas: Variação Linguística e Dimensões Sociocognitivas. Pluricentric Languages: Linguistic Variation and Sociocognitive Dimensions.
      Braga: Aletheia, Publicações da Faculdade de Filosofia da Universidade Católica Portuguesa, 2011, pp. 147-160
    • Norrby, Catrin and Hajek, John. "Language policy in practice: What happens when Swedish IKEA and H&M take 'you' on?" in Norrby, Catrin and Hajek, John (eds.), Uniformity and Diversity in Language Policy: Global Perspectives. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2011, pp. 242-257


    • Clyne, Michael. "Address in intercultural communication across languages," in Intercultural Pragmatics 6(3), 2009, pp. 395-409

Address in some Western European languages project

This project aimed to develop a unified model of address usage within a small group of related languages: French, German and Swedish. Each of these languages can be loosely characterised as providing a different sociolinguistic type within the European context. Specifically, this project investigated the extent to which recent sociopolitical events and changes have impacted on language by examining how the unmarked choice of address pronouns (ie the pronoun chosen more normally) has changed since World War II, and comparing across the three languages. Comparisons were also be made with English and between nations using the same language.

Research took place in Paris for French; in two locations in Germany - Mannheim and Leipzig - plus in Vienna, Austria, for German; and in Gothenburg (Sweden) and Vaasa (Finland) for Swedish. Data was collected in focus groups and interviews, through questionnaires and from electronic discussion lists/chat rooms dedicated to this issue.

This was the first comparative study of its kind, a first large-scale study of address pronoun use covering three important European languages and two major language groups (Germanic and Romance) within a shared physical area. Furthermore, it was the first cross-linguistic study of address pronouns with a focus on regional contiguity, specifically in an area of Europe that has since World War II been moving towards political, social and economic integration, but where identification with local cultures still remains strong.


Dr Catrin Norrby, Professor Michael Clyne, Dr Jane Warren, Dr Leo Kretzenbacher (pictured right)
Dr Catrin Norrby, Professor Michael Clyne,
Dr Jane Warren, Dr Leo Kretzenbacher
(pictured right)

Local Research Assistants: Leo Conroy, Jo Hughson, Doris Schüpbach with the assistance of Dr Judy Hadju

Overseas Research Assistants: Kristin Gogolok (Germany), Emanuelle Guérin (France), Maria Hansson (Sweden), Sandra Lachmann (Germany), Ann Mahieu-Bottequin (France), Jenny Nilsson (Sweden), Heidi Nyblom (Finland), Maria Weissenböck (Austria)

Duration: 2003 - 2006

Funding: ARC Discovery Grant

Institutional involvement: This project was conducted at The University of Melbourne, in partnership between the Research Unit for Multilingualism and Cross-Cultural Communication (RUMACCC) and the School of Languages and Linguistics.


Interview with Leo Kretzenbacher about the use of du or Sie on German internet forums on the ABC's Lingua Franca program.

  • Selected Publications


    • Kretzenbacher, Heinz L. "Perceptions of national and regional standards of addressing in Germany and Austria," in Pragmatics 21(1), 2011, pp. 69-83


       Styles of Address in Contemporary Language. Cambridge University Press, 2009
    • Clyne, Michael, Norrby, Catrin and Warren, Jane. Language and Human Relations: Styles of Address in Contemporary Language. Cambridge University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-521-87062-7

      The way in which people address one another is crucial to expressing social relationships and is closely linked with cultural values. In English we call some people by their first names, and others 'Mr' or 'Ms', followed by their surname. In some other languages there are different ways of saying 'you' depending on the degree of social distance. Exploring practices in the family, school, university, the workplace and in letters, this book reveals patterns in the varied ways people choose to address one another, from pronouns to first names, from honorifics to titles and last names. Examples are taken from contemporary English, French, German and Swedish, using rich data from focus group research, interviews, chat groups, and participant observation.

      • A revealing investigation into the different ways people choose to address each other
      • Data is derived from multiple sources, such as focus groups, interviews and participant observation
      • Explores address practices in a variety of situations including the family, school and the workplace


    • Clyne, Michael, Kretzenbacher, Heinz L., Norrby, Catrin and Schüpbach, Doris. "Perceptions of variation and change in German and Swedish address," in Journal of Sociolinguistics 10(3), 2006, pp. 287-319
    • Norrby, Catrin and Warren, Jane (eds.). Address in world perspective. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 29(2), 2006