Social deixis in motion

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The address term COMRADE in the 20th century Russian and Mandarin Chinese presents an attempt to neutralize and compress the category of formal address by collapsing in a single lexeme the dimensions of power, social distance, age, and gender differentials. This situation-dependent variability of politeness-import proved to be of limited efficacy on the more global, paradigmatic scale. With COMRADE falling out of use in the late 20th century, the current tendency in Russian and Mandarin is to reinforce novel forms of address and/or recover select obsolescent ATs. Both strategies suggest the contemporary address systems of these languages show a trend against reduction and towards populating the paradigm of generic address with ATs whose politeness import is specific and stable.


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