Forms of Address in Mosuli Arabic

Academic Paper, 2018

22 Pages



The nature of this study is to investigate the socio-cultural rules that govern address usage in daily conversation in Mosuli Arabic within family members. A socio-pragmatic approach is adopted in this study and by using semi-structured interviews to collect data from

80 participants in English Department, College of Education for Humanities, University of Mosul. The selection of the participants is done through four variables namely: age, gender, educational status and marital status. In this study, two theoretical framework are selected as a model of analysis namely the communication accommodation theory and the power and solidarity theory of Brown and Gilman (1968). The study finds that the age and family status are the most effective determiners of address choice in Mosul society.


Language is the main way for exchanging information and knowledge. In addition, it shows individuals’ identities, cultures, relationships and preferences to become closer or distant from each other. The way people open and end conversation, and address one another in a given situation are significant in the study of communication. Address forms are not neutral in communication. They convey attitudes and feelings; the choice of these terms is based on the way interlocutors evaluate communication situation.

The choice of address terms reveals the social relationship between the addresser and the addressee. Meanwhile, it represents the social characteristics of speaker (Lambert &

Tucker, 1976).Every time one person speaks to another, there is created a host of options centering around whether and how persons will be addressed or named. By now, still there are many unanswered questions about address terms, since address terms are as complicated as the society itself (Chaika, 1982). The main issues are how people address each other and how distinct forms like personal names, family names, pronouns, titles, nicknames are used to address (Hymes, 1974).

Statement of the problem

There are variations in the address terms used by speakers, for example different address forms (AFs) may be used to address the same person by different speakers or by the same speaker at different times in a different situation. In addition, the same speaker may address different addressees with different AFs in similar or different situations.


It is hypothesized that speakers accommodate their use of address forms within the family context.


The present study aims to investigate the different social rules that govern address system and the type of interpersonal relationship within family members in Mosuli Arabic.

Objectives of the study

The major objectives of the current research is to:

1. identify and describe the different forms of address used by Mosuli speakers.
2. explain the communicative functions of the different forms used by Mosuli speakers in terms of the communication accommodation theory (CAT) and Brown and Gilman theory.
3. identify and describe factors that determine variations of address forms used by Mosuli speakers. Literature review Parkinson (1985) explores the address terms in Egyptian Arabic. Depending on recorded natural data from observations and interviews, he identifies that the use of individual terms is closely related to the addressee's aspect and his relation with the addresser, aspect of the addresser himself, and the situation in which the term is used.

In a contrastive framework, Hwang (1991) compares address terms in Korean and American cultures. In discussing the results, he states that while American culture is first-name oriented, Korean culture is title and family-name oriented.In address usage, there is a different functional load between nouns and pronouns in the two languages.

Dicky (1997) examines the relationship between the use of names and other words in address and reference and what affects this difference. The study is based on observations and interviews. The results show a close connection between address forms and the refereeing terms.

Keshavarz (2001) studies address terms in Persian, the choice of address terms is examined in the study in addition to the influence of social contexts, intimacy and distance on this choice. The results indicate that with increasing social distance and formality degree between interlocutors there will be a loss of familiar terms of address.

Qin (2008) analyzes address terms' usage in both Chinese and

American English. Depending on movies to collect data, the results of the study show that beside the different categories of interpersonal relationships, the intentions of the speakers play an important role in the choice of address terms, both in Chinese and English.

Kubayi (2013) investigates the socio-cultural rules that govern address usage in face-to-face encounter in Xitsonga. Semi- structured interviews from 29 participants in Hlanganani region are used as data collection method. The study reveals that person age is the most effective factor in the choice of address terms and Hlanganani is an age-set society. Superior status in address behaviour is given to males in Xitsonga. Women and children are given the same lower status.

Alharbi (2015), in a socio-pragmatic approach, analyzes address forms and reference terms in classical Arabic as represented in the Chapter of Joseph in the Holy Quran. The study reveals that the choice Classical Arabic speakers in addressing behaviour is determined by certain sociolinguistic factors namely status, gender and setting.

AL-Qudah (2017) studies address terms in Jordanian Arabic. Six major categories of address forms are the focus of the study. The study identifies the most important forms under each category, their social meaning, and the governing factors that control their use. The study reveals that the social meaning of Jordanian terms of address is context- dependent. For instance, kinship terms are used to address relatives and non- relatives to support positive face. Tecnonyms are found to be greatly embedded in the Jordanian culture as polite terms of address since they are nearly used in all social domains.

Data Collection

In the present study, semi-structured interviews are used as adata collection method. The variables of age, gender, material status and level of education are taken into consideration in choosing the 80 participants as the sample of the study. They arestudents at the Department of English, College of Education for Humanities, University of Mosul at the academic year 2016 - 2017. The selection of the students takes into account certain aspects:sameage,monolingual speakers of Mosuli Arabic, unmarried, and the same level of education. In the interview, the participants are required to answer a series of planned questions about terms used to address family members (See Appendix 1).

Theoretical framework.

In this research, the interpretation of data will be based on two theoretical frameworks, which are the CAT and the power and solidarity of Brown and Gilman.

Howard Giles designs CAT to explain the adjustment individuals make to magnify, maintain, or reduce the communicative differences among themselves during social encounters, in other words how and why adjustment occurs and what the social consequences arise from doing so. Over the years, the theory has passed many stages of elaboration and refinement many times. Converging toward and diverging away from each other is the major accommodative strategies. This adjustment (convergence or divergence) can be achieved through linguistic(e.g., speech rate, accents), paralinguistic (e.g., pauses, utterance length), and nonverbal features (e.g., smiling, gazing).Generally, people converge to whom they respect, like or have power by decreasing the social distance between them and their interlocutors while they diverge, underscore or non accommodate to whom they dislike by increasing the social distance between them and their interlocutors. Sometimes, convergence occurs on a certain level and simultaneously divergence occurs on other levels. CAT claims that accommodation occurs by moving towards where others being more communicative rather than to where are objectively (Giles , 2016:48).In the same vein, Giles mentions that speakers will over time increasingly accommodate to the communicative patterns they believe characteristic of their interactants, the more they wish affiliate the more they decrease social distance with their interactants on either an individual or group level, or make their message more easily understood (Giles,2016:51).

In their study of address terms, Brown and Gilman (1960) explore the 2nd person pronoun's usage in French, Italian, Spanish and German. This study reveals that pronoun usage is governed by two social considerations: power and solidarity. Power refers to authority or the superiority of one person over another. As far as communication is concerned, the speaker may have power over the addressee or vice versa. This is affected by social factors like age, caste, race, and occupation. It is therefore non-reciprocal, in that two people may not have power over each other (in the same direction). A power relationship obtains, for instance, in communication involving a boss and a subordinate member of staff, between a parent and child, and between a teacher and student. In such circumstances, according to Brown & Gilman, the person who wields power over the other uses T(u), and receives the deferential V(ous) from the addressee, who is supposed to have no power. Solidarity, by contrast, is inherently reciprocal. It is invoked between equals, people who are close or have a certain level of intimacy. In this relationship, the same pronoun Tu is reciprocally used by two or more interactants (Brown and Gilman:1960).

Data analysis

Data analysis and results interpretation will be according to CAT and the power and solidarity theory.

1. Addressing father and mother.

The results indicate that when addressing fathers 92.5% of the participants use the kinship "baba" (father) or its variety, 2.5% use the first name, 1.25% use terms of endearment, and 3.75% don’t use any term at all because their fathers are dead (See Table 1).

Table (1) Forms of address used to address father

illustration not visible in this excerpt

As for addressing mother, the results indicate that 97.5% of the participants use the kinship term " mama" (mother) or its variety,

1.25% use the term "hadgija:"(pilgrim), and 1.25% don’t use any

term at all because their mothers are dead (See Table 2).

Table (2) Forms of address used to address mother

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Within CAT framework, the use of the kinship terms to address fathers or mothers, or the term "hadgija:" is a way of converging upward, while the use of first name or a term of endearment is a way of converging downward. The participants' initial orientation in both contexts is based on a positive history relationship between participants and their fathers or mothers. Norms of interaction specify that the addressee is the father or mother; both have the power over their sons and daughters. They have seniority and respect. So terms indicating respect must be used. In addition, the use of the first name indicates solidarity and friendly and when it is used by participants; it shows a sign of strong connection between the interlocutors, i.e., intergroup relation is strong.

The results further indicate that the most prevailed form in addressing fathers or mothers is the kinship term or its varieties. Within power and solidarity framework, the relation between parents(father or mother) and their children (sons or daughters) is a relation of power. The father or mother mostly receives kinship terms from their sons or daughters.

2. Addressing brothers and sisters.


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Forms of Address in Mosuli Arabic
University of Mosul
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ISBN (Book)
Socio-culture, Government, Mosuli
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Kamal Hussein (Author), 2018, Forms of Address in Mosuli Arabic, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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