Forms of Address as Cross-Cultural Code-Switching: The Case of German and Danish in Higher Education

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    Both German and Danish have distinct pronouns for addressing communication partners formallyand informally (referred to as V for Sie/De and T for du/du). However, their use differsconsiderably in Germany and Denmark, e. g. in higher education. In Germany, the lecturerand the students use V, in Denmark they use T. Based on the observation that Danish studentsare very reluctant (and sometimes even opposed) to use V in the classroom in Denmark, thisarticle proposes to consider the use of V and T as a case of Cross-Cultural Code-Switching. Itis hypothesized that V causes Cultural Cognitive Dissonance for (young) Danes since V isinterpreted as an overt manifestation of power distance in a society which considers itself asegalitarian. Ways to cope with such cognitive dissonance in foreign language teaching arediscussed. Furthermore, the article addresses the broader question of when cultural behavioursare supposed to apply and – in particular – what conventions are appropriate in higher educationin Denmark when German is the language of instruction: should we use V as in Germanyor T as in Denmark? Arguments for both choices are presented and discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLinguistik Online
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)179-198
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

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