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  1. #1
    Plexike is offline Newbie
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    Default How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) language?

    How can English people express social distance?
    I mean how can you encode into your language that the person you are talking to is superior/inferior to you or simply 'out of your circles'?
    How is 'that language' different from the one you use when you talk to a person who is equal to you or whom you are solidary with?

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    I think this concept went out the window about 60 years ago or at least I hope it did. I would not dream of talking to someone in a way that makes them think they are inferior to me. In the same way, although someone at work might be superior to me (in grade), I would probably only adapt my language a little - a little more formal and less swearing!

    In my social interaction, though, as far as I'm concerned, everyone is equal to me.

  3. #3
    Plexike is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    Thank you very much for your answer, 'emsr2d2'!

    I saw you are a teacher, so for example, if one of your students speaks to you the language he/she uses is simply called 'formal'?
    Does age matter here? I mean does language become formal if you are talking to a person who is let's say 30 year older than you? How can you encode your respect?

    I am sorry if my questions sound silly but somehow they are not silly over here at all.

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    Quote Originally Posted by Plexike View Post
    Thank you very much for your answer, 'emsr2d2'!

    I saw you are a teacher, so for example, if one of your students speaks to you the language he/she uses is simply called 'formal'?
    Does age matter here? I mean does language become formal if you are talking to a person who is let's say 30 year older than you? How can you encode your respect?

    I am sorry if my questions sound silly but somehow they are not silly over here at all.
    I simply expect my students (bear in mind my students are all adults, some of whom are older than me) to speak to me politely, as they should speak to anyone else. I don't expect any particular form of language from them simply because I'm teaching them English.

    I'm sure there are still some people in the UK who feel that we should "respect our elders and betters" and feel that that respect can be shown by use of language. I personally don't necessarily agree. I expect to be spoken to politely by everyone, regardless of who they are or of the relationship between us.

    English does not have the same kind of formal/informal personal pronouns that, for example, French (tu versus vous) and Spanish (tu versus usted), have.

    Your question isn't silly at all and in some countries/languages, there is a very distinct difference in the way people talk to their work colleagues, their friends, their elderly relatives etc.

  5. #5
    TheParser is online now VIP Member
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Great question!

    I used to refer to the teachers and moderators here as "Teacher Bush" or "Moderator Obama." This was done to show respect to them

    by using titles. But I was told that most of them were offended , so I now simply refer to them as "George" or "Barak."

    Also, here in the United States, some people feel that it is "safer" to address police officers as "sir" or "ma'am." On the other hand,

    some police officers may be offended if you "sir" them too often! Here in the United States we are told everyone is equal, so people

    often take that to mean that there should be no social distinctions in speech. Nevertheless, some people "instinctively" show respect

    to their "betters" or "superiors." For example, the letter carrier calls me "Mr. ___," and I reciprocate by calling him "Mr. ___." I am

    guessing that most maids and gardeners do not "dare" address their employers by first name, although their bosses probably address them

    by their first names. I am 75 years old, so I am of the "old school." I believe that everyone should keep his (her) place, but today

    most people feel that there is no longer a place to keep. Yet -- most people dutifully address their physicians as "Dr. Reagan." I doubt

    that many patients would dare say "I don't feel well today, Ronnie." On American TV talk shows, there may be a distinguished guest

    named, for example, "Dr. Calvin Coolidge." Many people who call in will address him as "Dr. Coolidge," but some will ostentatiously

    show that they are equal to him and say "I have a question for you, Cal." In our public high (secondary) schools, most students still

    address their teachers as "Mr." or "Mrs." Of course, there are always some instructors who want to be "one of the guys," so they might

    insist that the students call them by their first names. I noticed that at one fantastic ESL school for adults here in Los Angeles, most

    of the students addressed their instructors by first name: "Nancy is a wonderful teacher." Maybe this is done to make the students

    feel more comfortable and relaxed. (P.S. You said "English people," but I assumed that you meant "English-speaking people," so I

    thought that you wanted comments about the United States, too.)

  6. #6
    Plexike is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    Thank you again!

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    English does not have the same kind of formal/informal personal pronouns that, for example, French (tu versus vous) and Spanish (tu versus usted), have.
    Yes, I know. In Hungary we also have the same 'T-V' distinction (te versus Ín/Maga).
    This is my last year in college (I study English) so I'm writing my final thesis and the reason why I'm interested in this topic is that in my thesis I'm trying to compare the use of address terms in English and in Hungarian.
    Since there is no such a distinction of pronouns in English I have to find out how you can express the same things we can by the pronouns (and other things, of course).

  7. #7
    Plexike is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    Thank you dear 'TheParser'!

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    (P.S. You said "English people," but I assumed that you meant "English-speaking people," so I thought that you wanted comments about the United States, too.)
    I thought about people living in England (it's my fault) but I'm really glad that you wrote me! I think it will be good to write a little about the US as well in my thesis. =)

  8. #8
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post

    I used to refer to the teachers and moderators here as "Teacher Bush" or "Moderator Obama." This was done to show respect to them

    by using titles. But I was told that most of them were offended , so I now simply refer to them as "George" or "Barak."
    I seem to recall saying several times when this discussion was going on the first time round, that none of us were offended by the use of "Teacher XXX" or "Moderator XXX". We simply said that it was entirely unnecessary and that we would prefer to be simply addressed by our username. That is because we do not wish to be treated any differently to anyone else on the forum who is taking the time to respond to threads. We have usernames specifically so that we can be anonymous and it makes for a much more even playing field if everyone just uses the usernames to refer to each other.

    Mind you, I might be offended if you call me either George or Barak!

  9. #9
    TheParser is online now VIP Member
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    Quote Originally Posted by Plexike View Post

    I mean how can you encode into your language that the person you are talking to is superior/inferior to you or simply 'out of your circles'?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello, Plexike:

    (1) I immediately thought of your question when I recently read an article about the Titanic. In a fictional account of the tragedy,

    the conversation goes like this:

    "We are a political family," a snooty countess observes. "You, I think, have always been in trade."

    NOTES:

    (a) I think that a political family was a landowning family, thus entitling them to be part of the political establishment.

    (b) To be "in trade" was, I believe, a condescending way to say that you earned your money by owning "vulgar" factories or stores.

    (c) That was in 1912.

    (d) I hear that things have changed in England since then.

    (e) I thought, however, that you would like to know this for background information as you prepare your thesis.




    Source: The New Yorker magazine, April 16, 2012, p. 70.

  10. #10
    BobSmith is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: How can you distance yorself from the others by the means of (the English) langua

    [AmE - not a teacher]

    There are some formations, secondary to grammar, that people can use to make speech more or less formal. Here are some examples, though not everyone will agree with them.


    The responsibility lies with
    you.
    neutral
    The responsibility lies with
    you people.
    condescending, and potentially offensive
    The responsibility lies with
    you all.
    less formal, more friendly

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