Friends of Semantic Compositions

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July 02, 2004



I enjoyed reading this post. Korea is similar to Japan with regards to the social distance and word markings. Adjushi or Ajumma for an older man or woman and adding -ssi when addressing someone by name though more likely using Sonbei/Hubei for senior/junior relationships.

what is interesting here is that often, not always but often, Koreans will addresss foreigners - if they speak Korean well - using the informal system even though they wouldn\'t dream of doing so to another Korean. One of my friends who speaks much better Korean than I do, just continues to speak to them in higher language until they get uncomfortable and switch to the proper form. Banmal (반말) is familiar speech and chongdaemal (총대말)is higher language.


You're right. English doesn't have a lot in the way of honorifics, but people should use them with strangers when conducting business.

I find that when speaking a language that has a formal and an informal mode of address I use the formal unless I'm talking to kids. I also try to match what the person uses with me, but it requires conscious effort to notice, because my brain maps tu and vous, tyi and vyi, tu and Usted, all to "you" and discards the extra information about the level of formality.


I always wish I wasn't such a social no-hoper and could actually bluff reprimanding them and calling for their superiors and issuing formal complaints for such bizarre breaches of etiquette that English happens not to have grammatically encoded (no vous, no gozaimasu).

Semantic Compositions

Blinger: There are actually 3 levels of politeness in Japanese, although only two levels of lexical distinction. Kudaketa is the most intimate/least respectful form, with "plain" verb inflections, but everyone's still "san". Teinei replaces the plain inflections with "polite" ones, while keigo involves different vocabulary to go with the polite verb forms.

Qov: What language are "tyi" and "vyi" in? Sounds Romance-derived, but I don't recognize them.

entangledbank: I don't think I've ever actually called a supervisor over to complain. I think I expect that they'd say, "What are you, some kind of wiseguy?", or some other dismissive comment. If they kept their wits about them, they'd offer some insincere apology, and then probably tell the employee to keep up the good work; who cares what that etiquette-obsessed prick thinks? Since this has actually been going on for a while at the bank in question, and I haven't withdrawn my assets, obviously it doesn't bother me enough yet.


Tyi and vyi are my own poor transcriptions of Russian pronouns, as I don't have access to my Cyrillic charcter set here. Perhaps TbI and BbI are more recognizable? The letter that looks like "bI" is a palatized i.

language hat

I also feel this way, but I assume the battle was lost long ago. I tried to embarrass my dentist when he first called me by my given name by ending my response with "Joe," hoping that the brutal avoidance of the customary (or so I thought) "Doctor X" would shock him out of it, but it didn't faze him in the least, and I realized with horror that he expected to be addressed in that informal manner. So I stopped even trying. But I still resent it.


Hmm, as a biologist I find this etiquette discussion quite interesting. In graduate school, and even occasionally as an undergraduate, I was specifically instructed to use given names to address instructors. At professional meetings I would regularly be introduced to someone by their given name, even if they were a leader in their field (e.g. "This is Ray").

I've thus gotten into the habit of addressing almost everyone by given name, and I also tell my students to call me by my given name. I've noticed, in contrast, that our host seems to address other linguists formally.

And besides, Mr. Brown is my dad.

Henry IX

At one doctor's office I went to, the receptionist told me that they addressed patients by given names to protect privacy. And so she addressed me as 'Henry.' When my turn came to see the doctor, the nurse called, "Henry." "Henry IX."

So much for privacy. And it sounded like such a good reason.

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