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Keywords:

  • Address;
  • social distance;
  • variation;
  • German;
  • Swedish

German and Swedish speakers diverge in contemporary address practice. The Swedish T form has become unmarked, with V limited to very specific situations. Apart from some specific T or V contexts, German now has coexistent systems, one with T, the other with V as the unmarked form, with different speakers or networks preferring one or the other. In an ongoing project, focus groups and participant observation in Austria, (eastern and western) Germany and Sweden and with Swedish speakers in Finland have identified factors and contexts determining degree of social distance and hence address choice. First name use is more marked than T use in Swedish but the two are closely linked in German. National variation is more substantial in Swedish than in German. In both languages there is some reversal of liberalization and distaste for imposition of the address form.