Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Symposium on Pragmatics and Intercultural Communication at the University of London

Conference Location


Total Pages

20 slides


Personal address is a pervasive index of identities, relationships and culture that is of enduring interest to pragmatics research and theory (see Clyne, Norrby & Warren, 2009; Hughson, 2009, for recent work). Sociolinguistic models of personal address proceed from a correlational perspective, in which choices among alternative address terms are centered on variation between the formal (V) and informal (T) second person pronouns. Research in this tradition presumes relatively direct connections between specifiable situational variables, such as relative age, familiarity, and sex, and address term choices. By contrast, the cultural perspective proceeds from the assumption that personal address reveals a unique system of norms and premises relevant to personhood and relationships that underlies the social structure in which that system is enacted. This presentation builds from a cultural perspective founded on Hymes’ (1962, 1972) conceptualization of speech communities and valued ways of speaking, developed further in speech codes theory (Philipsen, 1992, 1997; Philipsen et. al, 2005). Specifically, I take the discursive force position – that cultural norms are connected to action by way of predictions and explanations of talk about norm-governed behavior – as the basis for exploring differentiation of intentions from interpretations of personal address. I draw from previously published ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Colombia, as well as more recent data, to illustrate five possibilities for interpretation and evaluation of personal address behavior that diverges from expectation: ignorance, incompetence, innovation, transgression and resistance.


personal address, sociolinguistics, ethnography of speaking, T/V pronouns, Colombia, culture, norms, speech codes theory, accounts, advice, gossip, pragmatics, intercultural communication


An earlier version of this presentation was delivered as a plenary address to the Symposium on Pragmatics and Intercultural Communication at the University of London, June 2009. Conference presentation slides.


Copyright 2010 Kristine Muñoz