What is it about?

In the 1960s, Swedish address practices changed from honorifics to the informal second-person pronoun du. This study challenges the common view of this so called “du-reform” as quick and clear-cut. Previous studies have relied on reported usage and written language. They suggest that people avoided the formal pronoun ni because it was impolite. The informal du, on the other hand, was only used with family and close friends. I used advertising films to trace usage patterns in dialogue and in addressing the viewer. My study shows evidence of change over a period of fifteen years. The formal pronoun ni and informal du were both used in addressing the viewer long before the du-reform. The du-reform is a noteworthy change in European politeness behaviour. Today, the informal du is the unmarked address form in Swedish.

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Why is it important?

The Swedish du-reform is a fast and fundamental change in address patterns, and a clear example of the wave of informalisation that swept Europe in the 1960s.


This article summarises the results of my doctoral thesis, which is in Swedish: Tilltal i reklamfilm (2018).

Maria Fremer
The Language Council of Sweden

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This page is a summary of: The informalisation of address practice in Swedish in a historical perspective, Journal of Historical Pragmatics, March 2023, John Benjamins,
DOI: 10.1075/jhp.00067.fre.
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