Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Sociolinguistic Study on the Address Term "Meinü" in Present-Day China/ETUDE PRAGMATIQUE DU MOT D'APPELLATION CHINOIS « BELLE »

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Sociolinguistic Study on the Address Term "Meinü" in Present-Day China/ETUDE PRAGMATIQUE DU MOT D'APPELLATION CHINOIS « BELLE »

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Nowadays, "meinü" ('beautiful ladies') has become a popular address term to females in China. It is no longer a privilege term used to refer to beautiful young ladies, but a pan-honorific term for the females. Based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches, this study examines the usage of address term "meinü" across four cities by analyzing their sociolinguistic functions in communication. The information about the addresser and the addressee, such as age and gender, as well as information about the relationship between the interlocutors, such as degree of intimacy, or level of solidarity are also studied.

Key words: address term, meinü, sociolinguistic function

Résumé: De nos jours, le mot « belle », appellation des femmes, est très populaire en Chine. Le mot « belle », n'étant plus réservé aux femmes jeunes et jolies, devient une appellation polie pour toutes les femmes. Le présent article, en combinant la méthode quantitative et la méthode qualitative de recherche, examine profondément l'utilisation de ce mot dans 4 villes chinoises et sa fonction pragmatique dans la communication. L'auteur étudie aussi des informations sur le locuteur et l'interlocuteur, telles que le sexe, l'âge, leur relation, etc.

Mots-Clés: mot d'appellation, belle, fonction pragmatique

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1. INTRODUCTION

Nowadays, "meinü" ..., 'beautiful ladies') is a popular address term to female in our daily life. A great number of women have been addressed as "meinü" regardless of their appearance, age, occupation, and so on. Therefore the word "meinü" is no longer a privilege term used to refer to beautiful young ladies, but a pan-honorific term for the females. Li (2001: 68) has pointed out "terms of address can reflect a society's norms and values". It is true that the address terms for females are changing over time, partly due to the reason that women play an increasingly important role in the modern society. With the development of economy, more and more women begin to participate in the social work and their address terms are changing with their social positions.

In the last half period of the 20th century, the address term "tongzhi" (..., 'comrade') was used most frequently in language communication on mainland China. It was feasible to address nearly every person "tongzhi", indiscriminate in gender. However, this most widely used term in the pre-reform era has become obsolete though it is still used in the political discourse and has been replaced by terms that are modern and gender-specific, for instance, "xiansheng" (..., 'Mr.') and "xiaojie" (..., 'Miss'). So for a period of time, the address terms "xiansheng" and "xiaojie" were quite popular. "Xiansheng" is still used now, however, "xiaojie" is a sensitive address term because it's also an euphemism for prostitutes due to the emergence of the pornography industry. Therefore, sometimes people find it difficult to address the young females. As a result, the address term "meinü" has been invented to replace "xiaojie". So the aim of this paper is to examine the usage of this newly emerged address term "meinü", as well as its variants "liangnü" (..., 'beautiful ladies'), by analyzing their sociolinguistic functions in communication, and geographic distribution in China as well. The information about the addresser and the addressee, such as age and gender, as well as information about the relationship between the interlocutors, such as degree of intimacy, or level of solidarity are also studied.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

Research on the use of address terms in the past four decades, beginning with the classic study of Brown and Gilman (1960), has focused on the social dimensions of address terms, primarily, on issues of solidarity, power, and formality. For example, Lin (1992) explores how social-psychological factors of closeness and distance govern the speaker's selection of address terms. …

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