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The Semantics and Pragmatics of Address forms in Persian
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Language and Literature.
2013 (English)Masteroppgave, 30 credits / 45 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In Persian, there is a tendency to use plural pronouns instead of singular pronouns in order to show respect and politeness to either the addressee or some other individual referred to (2nd or 3rd person). The choice of such plural or singular forms (called T-V forms by Brown and Gilman 1966) in Persian is a challenging subject that has not been discussed enough so far. Although every native speaker of Persian unconsciously knows when such polite address forms can occur, it has turned out to be an amazingly complicated task to explicitly state the sufficient and necessary conditions for appropriate use of these forms in Persian. This thesis is an attempt to address this issue.

The main objectives in this study are to: 1) Determine the contextual conditions when a plural form (i.e. pronoun, agreement marker or enclitic) is used to refer to a singular entity in contemporary Persian; 2) Investigate the relative influence of sociolinguistic features such as gender difference, age distance, power distance, solidarity, formality (relative distance), and mood shifting in the choice of pronominals in Persian and determine the factors that influence pronoun switching; and 3) Diagnose whether the choice of plural or polite referring forms in Persian is addressee oriented or referent oriented with respect to the T-V distinction.

The present study mainly built on the sociolinguistic methodology of Ervin-Tripp (1976), Keshavarz’s study in forms of post-revolutionary Persian address forms (1988 and 2001) and Nanbakhsh (2011) dissertation on Persian address pronouns and politeness in interaction.

The data analysis section is transcribed from a movie called ˈA separationˈ written and directed by Asghar Farhadi (2011). The film data analysis part consists of 8 episodes where each episode has special location, participant (interlocutors) and a topic (situation). I will investigate the choice of pronominal forms in this section with respect to the following six features: Age distance, gender difference, power distance, solidarity, mood and formality (relative distance).

The secondary objectives of this research are based on a quantitative analysis of the film data. The distribution of the social features of the film data indicates that quantitatively, formality with 35% as a mean percentage is the most significant feature of the analysis with the reciprocal V form (plural honorific). The mood shifting with (26.5%) had the second place on converting the expected V to the T form (singular, non-honorific) or vice versa. The age difference feature with (12%) is the third most influential feature that has influence on the reciprocal T or V forms. The solidarity feature with (17%) has the fourth place in causing the reciprocal T form. The gender difference feature with (7%) has the fifth place on appearance of the reciprocal V form and the power distance feature with (2.5%) has the least influence on the non-reciprocal V form. Therefore I conclude that formality feature is more significant than power distance in the choice of Persian T-V forms. (There could be other hidden features (variables) that I have not considered in this analysis and they might cause errors in my study.) Regarding the T/V mismatching, I have found that the anger mood in order to show sarcasm is one of the reasons for it and the other cause of mismatching is to increase solidarity. 

Concerning the third objective of this research, the qualitative analysis indicates that the choice of plurality and politeness in the formal situation was mostly addressee oriented and it was mostly under the superior power of the judge.

The first research objective is an overall question that will be clarified after consideration of the answers to the other two issues mentioned. This work will contribute to a broader understanding of how politeness governs Persian communication and how this interacts with pragmatics. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
URN: urn:nbn:no:ntnu:diva-26739OAI: diva2:750990
Available from: 2014-12-03 Created: 2014-09-30 Last updated: 2014-12-03Bibliographically approved

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