Language in Society


The ancient Greek address system and some proposed sociolinguistic universals

Eleanor Dickeya1

a1 Classical Studies, University of Ottawa, PO Box 450, Stn. A Ottawa, Ontario KIN 6N5, Canada,


This article summarizes the results of a longer study of address forms in Ancient Greek, based on 11,891 address tokens from a variety of sources. It argues that the Greek evidence appears to contradict two tendencies, found in address forms in other languages, which have been claimed as possible sociolinguistic universals: the tendency toward T/V distinctions, and the principle that “What is new is polite.” It is suggested that these alleged universals should perhaps be re-examined in light of the Greek evidence, and that ancient languages in general have more to contribute to sociolinguistics than is sometimes realized. (Address, Ancient Greek, T/V distinctions)