HOW FORMAL OR INFORMAL ENGLISH SPEAKERS ARE: A CASE STUDY OF ADDRESSING A STRANGER IN BRITAIN, AMERICA AND AUSTRALIA
Following the development of address research in pluricentric languages (Clyne et al. 2006, Larina & Suryanarayan 2013, Formentelli & Hajek, among others), the present study investigates address practices in everyday interaction in three dominant varieties of English, namely British English, American English, and Australian English while addressing a stranger. The aim of the study is to compare address practices across the three dominant varieties of English in the situation of addressing a stranger with the focus on the level of (in)formality in different social settings and to investigate the sociocultural features that govern contemporary use of address forms in these cultural contexts. The data for the analysis were obtained through ethnographic observations and questionnaires, which contained a number of situations chosen in order to explore both symmetrical and asymmetrical contexts, taking into account the gender differences as well. In our analysis we draw on cultural studies, politeness theory, intercultural pragmatics and address forms theory. The findings have shown that though the representatives of the three cultures are native speakers of English and share Anglo-Saxon values, they display some differences in the preference of address forms which evidence sociocultural differences. To some extent they relate to the degree of formality and informality that we consider as one of the dominant features of communicative ethno-styles (Larina 2015). We argue that differences in address practices observed in the three varieties of English reflect diverse social and cultural values systems in these speech communities. The results contribute to the study of pluricentric languages and lingua-cultural characteristics of their varieties, as well as to socio-cognitive linguistics, cross-cultural pragmatics and intercultural communication.