Are the rules of address universal? A Test of Chinese Usage

Rolf O. Kroger, Ken Cheng, Ishbel Leong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Our question was: Does the alleged universality of Brown 's Invariant Norm of Address (1965) extend to Chinese usage? Or, does the alleged universal relationship between social power and intimacy and between inequality and equality hold for Chinese social structure? To answer these questions, we developed three quantitative indices which measure the degrees of reciprocity, solidarity, and inequality in dyadic address exchanges. The indices permit the precise comparison of empirical results with theoretical predictions and of address usage across languages. Seventy Chinese speakers forming a diverse sample reported actual address usage received from and sent to 27 interactants. The results revealed the structure of address usage among Chinese speakers and provided unequivocal support for Brown 's prediction such that we may confidently add Chinese to the series of languages which jointly support the claim for the universality of the Invariant Norm. The relationship between studies in the semantics of social structure and the emerging alternative social-psychological strategy of ethogeny is noted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-414
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1979
Externally publishedYes


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