News

Home  >  News > Forms of speech as a reflection of social changes

Forms of speech as a reflection of social changes

Addressing modes were the focus of the analysis in CLUB 26, the traditional language colloquium the Department of Catalan Philology and General Linguistics organizes every year.

Addressing modes were the focus of the analysis in CLUB 26, the traditional language colloquium the Department of Catalan Philology and General Linguistics organizes every year.

29/10/2018

Acadèmic

“It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. (…) Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said ‘Señor’ or ‘Don’ or even ‘Usted’; everyone called everyone else ‘comrade’ and ‘thou’, and said ‘Salud!’ instead of ‘Buenos días’”. This extract from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which is set in the revolutionary Barcelona in 1936, shows how languages —here through forms of address— reflect social changes.

Addressing modes were the focus of the analysis in CLUB 26, the traditional language colloquium the Department of Catalan Philology and General Linguistics organizes every year. In this edition, which took place on October 26 in the room Joan Maragall at the Faculty of Philology, participants could focus on the way forms of address work in different languages, and, from an applied perspective, they also treated the problems related to translation and dubbing, and second language teaching.

In many languages, there is a return to the more formal forms of address, like the case of peninsular languages. María Sampedro, lecturer at the University of Santiago de Compostela and expert on the addressing modes in Spanish, mentioned many examples taken from real conversations in which the same sentence has different uses of “tú” and “usted”, which shows many Spanish speakers change forms while speaking this language, perhaps due a lack of knowledge or lack of use.

The progressive democratization of a society can lead to the levelling of the use of addressing modes. However, sometimes the language authority can act to reverse the replacement of a word for another. This case was told by Neus Nogué, lecturer at the University of Barcelona, regarding a treatment formula in Catalan that was going back since mid-20th century: vós. In the eighties, when the restored Generalitat had to update and normalize administrative language, they decided to opt for vós in letters, applications, certificates, etc. “because it is not as distant and serious as vostè and takes the traditional form back”.

In some societies, like the Japanese one, which is hierarchical and ritualized, a mistake when addressing someone can be considered disrespectful. Makiko Fukuda, lecturer at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, said even teenagers have to follow these forms when speaking: a 13-year old boy cannot talk to a 16-year one as they were in the same position; if he does so, the other one can mistreat him. German, which is not that strict, keeps its different formality levels alive. The arrival of Swedish multinational companies in Germany, such as Ikea or H&M, created an intense social debate: the Scandinavians –who lost formal forms of address- imposed the use of thou among their German workers, which provoked a response from them, up to the point that they ended up in court, according to Marta Fernández Villanueva, lecturer of German at the UB, and the German speaking people won the case.


Twenty-six years of CLUB

The language colloquiums or CLUB, that have been organized by the Department of Catalan Philology and General Linguistics for twenty-six years, were born with the aim of “showing students the research carried out by the lecturers and which is sometimes hidden behind teaching”, said Lluís Payrató, coordinator of the Study Group of Variation and launcher of CLUB. The collection Lingüística Catalana, from Editions and Publications of the University of Barcelona , gathers many editions of these colloquiums in an online book, many of which can be downloaded for free.

 

Share this at:
| More |
  • Follow us:
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Facebook profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Twitter profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Instagram profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Linkedin profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Youtube profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Google+ profile
  • Button to access University of Barcelona's Flickr profile
Member of International recognition of excellence HR Excellence in Research logo del leru - League of European Research Universities logo del bkc - campus excel·lència logo del health universitat de barcelona campus

© Universitat de Barcelona