Address Terms in the Modern Dramas "Ruined" and "A Raisin in the Sun". Main Characters Addressing Other Characters

Academic Paper, 2021

31 Pages




Research Questions

The Theoretical Framework of the Study
Types of Address Terms
Communication Accommodation Theory(CAT)

Themes of the Plays
A Raisin in the Sun

Methodology and Data-Analysis
The Data
The Procedure of Data-Analysis
Data Analysis and Interpretation

Types of Address Terms Used by the Main Characters Addressing Other Characters in Ruined
Types of Address Terms Performed by Mama Nadi
Title + Last Name
Neutral Terms

Types of Address Terms Performed by Christian
Kinship Terms
Neutral Terms

Types of Address Terms Performed by the Main Characters Addressing Other characters in A Raisin in the Sun
Types of Address Terms Performed by Lena Younger
Types of Address Terms Performed by Ruth Younger
Kinship Term
Types of Address Terms Performed by Walter Younger




This is a pragmatic study that explores the relationship between language and society. This study aims to analyse the phenomenon called address terms performed by the main characters in the selected English dramas under the study, namely: Ruined and A Raisin in the Sun. This study has four main objectives: finding out the main types of addressing terms used by the characters in the dramas previously mentioned, their functions, the factors affecting their selection by the characters and the difference between the two genres, modern and classical, and effect in using the address terms. The theoretical framework that has been employed in the data-analysis is the Communication Accommodation Theory. The type of adjustment whether convergence or divergence, the way its components affect the communication, and the strategies that are used for adjusting. This study employed the mixed (qualitative + quantitative) content-analysis method since the data under the study are books and documents. Moreover, the findings are presented in narrative form and tables with numbers and percentages are used to support the analysis. The results show the great connection between the address terms that are used, the Communication Accommodation Theory, and the themes of the plays.

Keywords: Pragmatics, address term Communication Accommodation Theory, convergence, divergence, mixed-method.


In daily life, people use language to communicate with others. Language is an important factor for a person to live with other people. People send a message to a person with language, ask for help, and express their feelings with language. People always use language even when they think about their life. These prove that language is an important factor in our life. In other words, people are part of a society that is built on relationships with one another. There is social interaction between people in societies which is done through communication.

Holmes (2004) states that "We use language to ask for and give people information. We use it to express indignation and annoyance, as well as admiration and respect. When people communicate with others, sometimes their dialogues may contain addressing terms. Addressing terms are defined as the way people address each other. These could be the first name, last name, nickname, title, or some combination of them. Since at least the beginning of the 1970s, linguists have become aware of interpreting language in contexts not in isolation. With this trending linguistic approach towards language, sociolinguists have highlighted the role of language in different social contexts and vice versa. Holmes (1992, 1) declares that "examining the way people use language in different social contexts provides a wealth of information about the way language works, as well as about the social relationships in a community." People use different styles of speech according to the social contexts they are engaged in (Keshavarz 2001, p.5). This entails that language is not used only to exchange information; rather, while engaging in social linguistic interactions, language users consciously or unconsciously reveal their identities (Formentelli 2009, p.179), their cultural and social background, and their relationships to their addressees and their referents.

One of the aspects representing the existence of context is the use of address terms (ATs) which are defined as words used in a speech event referring to the addressee. They can be used as important elements to convey what happens among the participants, and between the participant and context, to gather social information (Holmes, 1992). Studying ATs always becomes interesting research in linguistics study as the use of ATs can reveal many things including the identity of the speakers, the power and authority of the speakers, and also the distance and relationship between the speakers. Address by title alone is the least intimate form of address. It usually designates ranks or occupations, as Colonel, Doctor, or Waiter. Titles lack 'personal' content. Knowing and using another first name is, of course, a sign of considerable intimacy or at least of a desire for such intimacy. Using a nickname or pet name shows a greater intimacy. The asymmetric use of names and address terms is often a clear indicator of a power difference. A school classroom is almost a universally good example, such as John and Sally are likely to be pupils, and Miss or Mr. Smith to be a teacher. The phenomenon of addressing terms can be observed from social interaction as reflected in several selected English dramas under study. There are various ATs used by those characters and they vary depending on who uses it, where they use it, when they use it and why they use it. The character uses different ATs when the situation changes.


The main aim of the study is to investigate the functions and types of ATs that are used by the characters in the selected dramas under study and their connection to the themes of these dramas taking into consideration the interpersonal relationships amongst these characters.

Research Questions

1. What are the main ATs used by the addressers in the selected English dramas to call their addressees?
2. What are characters’/participants’ intentions behind using the ATs in the communicative situations?
3. How the class, and social status of the addresser affect his use of the ATs in addressing the addressee? That is, what are symmetrical and asymmetrical relations among characters?
4. Are these linguistic devices (address terms) used well in Modern written dramas?


Based on research questions, the present study hypothesizes that:

1. All types of ATs are used by the characters in the selected drama under study.
2. In Modern drama, playwrights use less polite forms as a result of intimacy, that is, there is no excessive use of formal terms rather, informal terms are more frequent in such types of drama.
3. There is a direct connection between the address terms used by the characters and the themes of the selected dramas under the study.

The Theoretical Framework of the Study

This section clarifies the theoretical background of the study.

Types of Address Terms

There are different types of addresses, but the most common type of ATs is by names. A name is a term used to denote a specific individual, identifying him or her directly Lehrer and Hanks (2006, cited in Kubayi 2013). First Names identify human beings as individuals, not groups or functions. Naming focuses on how adults address each other, how they address children, and how this is reversed (Wardhaugh, 2006). Next, according to Chaika (1982:47), the use of Title plus Last Name in communication indicates social distance and unfamiliarity between the speaker and the interlocutor. This type of AT is usually used by a person who has a relatively higher status than the other people who he/she wants to address. Besides, Titles are nominal forms that emphasized the relationship between the speaker and the addressee (Martiny, 1996). Titles are different from personal FNs and last names in the sense that they emphasize the social relationship between the speaker and the addressee, rather than upon the addressee, in other words, titles are expressions of respect (Dickey,1996). Ts that are used so commonly include “Sir”, “Madam”, “Miss”, “Mr.”, “Mrs”. Next, Chaika (1982:49) states that “the use of the LN indicates that the speaker is more superior to the addressee”. She adds that the inferior will receive her/his LN alone while the superior will be addressed by her/his T plus last name. It can be concluded that the use of LN in communication shows asymmetric power between the speaker and the addressee. Another type of AT is a special nickname. According to Chaika (1982:49-50), this type of ATs is used in communication by the speaker and the addressee that has an intimate relationship, such as between close friends. She adds that a special nickname is also used as a sign of intimacy. An example of special nicknames is "Charles" turns into "Charlie". Furthermore, Pet Name is similar to the special nickname that is proposed by Chaika (1982:49) in the previous description. However, Wardhaugh (2006:268-9) states that PN indicates a higher level of intimacy compared to the use of the FN in addressing other people. Examples of PNs are "Honey" and "Sweetheart". Also, Asadpour (2010) states that Kinship Terms are those which are used for blood relations and for affined”. Foley (1997, cited in Aghagolzadeh and Asadpour 2010), believes that KTs should be studied from two perspectives: universalist and relativist. kinship systems are good domains to show universals because marrying and reproduction are necessary features for any society. Finally, the Neutral Terms category of terms that is neutral concerning the degree of respect includes terms with very basic meanings like "man", "woman", "girl", "boy", "child", etc. The function of most of the terms that are included in this category also interacts with other categories such as terms of solidarity and family terms. These terms are neutral concerning the degree of respect or formality and rather they imply either friendship or joking.

Communication Accommodation Theory(CAT)

CAT is a framework for understanding the intergroup and verbal patterns between the speaker and his addressee, and the communicative behaviours of the speaker either oriented convergently towards or divergently away from the addressee or the fellow speaker.

Giles (2016), distinguishes between two types of accommodation: Psychological and linguistic types of accommodation. Psychological accommodation indicates the speaker's own intentions and motives to adjust while communicating with others. The latter refers to the actual speech that is used by the speaker through communication. Linguistic accommodation can be further distinguished as either objective or subjective. The former indicates a direct shift in the behaviour and it can be measured and observed, while subjective accommodation is not direct, that is, one's perception of behaviour change. There are three main ways in which people can adjust their speech in a communication situation concerning other people: Convergence, Divergence, and maintenance.

"Convergence refers to adjusting one's communicative behaviours to be more similar to another's."(Giles, 2016, p.36-37). Convergence is a strategy where an individual adapts the communicative behaviour in terms of linguistic, paralinguistic, and nonverbal features so that they become more like their interactants. While "Divergence refers to adjusting one's communicative behaviours to be more dissimilar to another's" (Giles, 2016). A speaker may "diverge" from the needs of his listener or fellow speaker by not accommodating to his speech. This way can be used by communicators to separate themselves from undesirable groups or individuals. And "Maintenance refers to sustaining one's "default" level of communicating without adjusting for others. " According to Thakerar et al. (1982 as cited in Gallois, Ogay, and Giles 2005) maintenance indicates maintaining speakers' positive identity. The interlocutor persists in his individual style regardless of the communicative behaviour of his partner. It can be considered as similar to divergence strategy in the point that the speaker wants to stay as distinctive as possible from the inter-individual or intergroup speakers.

Themes of the Plays


The play tackles the plight of women's survival during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In this play, women are portrayed as victims of political and armed conflicts. Women in the play, reflect the serious issue that exists in the world in general, as it threatens the human race. The humanization of women and considering them as minorities and others in their society.

Muhi, (2019) explains about this play, the writer reveals the ugly reality of crimes committed against the people in the DRC in general, and especially women during the civil war. Women were victims of war weapons as well as rape and sexual violence. They were crushed under diverse armed, political, social, tribal forces. The violence against women occurs massively, they were taken as sex slaves for Congolese rebels and governmental armies. Moreover, these victimized wounded women were severely harmed and stigmatized by their own families who rejected them and did not support them. DRC is considered the worst place in the world.

According to norms and cultural beliefs, a raped woman is considered a course, and the whole family is shamed by her. But in reality, these conventions by the families have no considerations of women's feelings and devastated souls. No attention has been paid to how the rape psychologically destroys its victims causing severe depression and post-traumatic stress.

A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry is the first African American woman to win the New York Drama Critics Circle, and she is best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun ( 1959 ). Racism, as Jose indicates in her paper (2014), is one of the main themes of African-American Literature. Racism is a belief that the genetic factors, which constitute a race, are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities. Racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. It is universally prevalent that the minority racial groups may be denied rights or benefits, or receives preferential treatment. Racism in the United States has been a major issue since the colonial era and the slave era. A heavy burden of racism in the country has fallen upon African Americans. The play is based on racial prejudice, the tension, and the struggle between White and Black Americans in American Society. The White people are the settlers in America and the Black were brought into the country as slaves. As a result, the White wanted to reserve their identity and divide society into classes and levels. They never wanted to live along with the black in the same society.

Womanism is one of the main themes in Hansberry's work "A Raisin in the Sun". In her drama, Hansberry (1959) depicts the unique experience of three black women negotiating their own way in society. The play displays a very strong view of womanist issues during the 1950s and the decades following its production. It raised the issue of black-man black-woman relationships, gender roles, women's right to education, black women's identity, and abortion.

Methodology and Data-Analysis

This section clarifies the methodology of the study i.e., source of data and the method analysing these data. It tends to analyse the types of ATs used by the main characters in the selected dramas.

The Data

The data of the study are Modern dramas of Lorraine Hansberry (1959), and Lynn Nottage (2007).

The Procedure of Data-Analysis

The study adopts Denscombe’s (2003) content model to analyse the collected data. Content analysis is a method that can be used in any text to analyse the content of the data in form of documents. The researcher closely examines the data to identify common themes – topics, ideas, and patterns of meaning that come up repeatedly. However, Giles' (1973) theory (CAT) will be used in the interpretation of the data from the selected English dramas under study. CAT is a multifunctional theory that conceptualizes communication in both subjective and objective terms. It focuses on both intergroup and interpersonal features and, as we shall see, can integrate dimensions of cultural variability. Moreover, in addition to individual factors of knowledge, motivation, and skill, CAT recognizes the importance of power and macro contextual factors. Most important, perhaps, CAT is a theory of intercultural communication that actually attends to communication.

On the other hand, the collected data will be analysed according to the themes of the plays under the study. The theme in a play is its underlying message or big idea. In other words, what critical belief about life is the author trying to convey in the writing of a novel, play, short story, or poem? This belief, or idea, transcends cultural barriers. It is usually universal in nature. This research will analyse the use of address terms depending on the context of the plays, the conversational situations in which they are used, and their effect on the selection among the different types of address terms. It will explore the main themes' effect on characters' behaviours with other characters, and what are the main factors within the play that are affecting their decisions as social values and rules, characters' general status, and the relationship they have among themselves.


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Address Terms in the Modern Dramas "Ruined" and "A Raisin in the Sun". Main Characters Addressing Other Characters
University of Mosul  (University of Mosul/ Iraq)
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address, terms, modern, dramas, ruined, raisin, main, characters, addressing, other
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Dr. Kamal Hussein (Author), 2021, Address Terms in the Modern Dramas "Ruined" and "A Raisin in the Sun". Main Characters Addressing Other Characters, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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