The Sociolinguistics of Personal Address and Reference in Urban Shona Society
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This thesis examines the forms, interpersonal or social functions and patterns of terms used as address or reference resources in spoken urban Shona, integrating Hymes’s (1962) Ethnography of Communication theory and a modified version of Brown and Levinson’s (1987) Politeness theory as analytical tools. Our concern is the speaker’s manipulation of address or reference terms to index social meanings that serve desired social functions. Although personal address or reference terms have obvious literal meanings that serve referential functions, native speakers of Shona recognise certain usages as social or idiomatic, rather than literal, in their reference to others. That is, linguistic resources carry meaning beyond their literal reference to persons and relationships. The discovery of social meaning may be accomplished by studying normative uses of address or reference terms in a wide array of contexts and relationships. The usual assumption in personal relationship research has been, until recently, that only the relationship of the interlocutors, their individual qualities and needs and what they have communicated to each other about themselves determine their address behaviour. We take a broader approach attributing address choice and usage to factors pertaining to the interlocutors’ personal relationship as well as the cultural premises, beliefs and values of their society. Thus, relationships and the social world are intertwined systems of meaning. We obtained data from everyday interactions through triangulated research techniques. Ethnographic observation and semi-structured interviews are the main methods of data collection, supplemented by casual conversations, tape recording and transcriptions of conversations and introspection.