The social indexicality of forms of address tú and usted in Bogotá, Colombia

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University of Alabama Libraries

This ethnographic study examines the indexical meanings of forms of address tú and usted in the speech of Bogotá, Colombia; the social and linguistic factors that influence their meaning and use; the preferences in address of different social groups found in this city; and the implications of using either form in conversation. 78 individuals from different socioeconomic and generational groups participated in this study through a sociolinguistic interview, a questionnaire, and more than 40 hours of video recording of spontaneous conversations mostly in the home context. Findings of this study were analyzed from the perspective of the concepts of indexicality, language and social identity, language attitudes and language ideologies, and the precepts of the Communication Accommodation Theory. Among other aspects, findings of this study indicate that in Bogota tú and usted have a multiplicity of social meanings which in great part depend on the characteristics that make up the social identity of interlocutors and the context at hand. The findings also indicate that a variety of social and linguistic/situational factors influence the use of forms of address tú and usted, and that using either form in conversation can have meaningful effects in the development of dialogue. Consequently, individuals use tú and usted in strategic ways, indexing their agency and intentionality. The current study highlights the fact that in Bogotá the meaning and use of tú and usted can be co-constructed and negotiated in dialogue; and most important, that through their use individuals depict a series of social perspectives and affiliations. The current investigation advocates for the inclusion of a more comprehensive address in the classroom in which not only the form tú is presented given the benefits that more variation can represent in real-life situations.

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Sociolinguistics, Foreign language education, Modern language