Address terms in New Zealand English: Tracking changes to the social indexicality of gendered terms of address
Recent research has suggested that some conventionally masculine address terms are becoming more gender neutral in English speaking countries. This study examines the four most prominent gendered address forms in New Zealand English: mate, bro, man and guys in order to gain insight into the terms’ social indexicalities, and track any shifts towards gender neutrality. The study takes a mixed-methods approach to analysing two distinct data sets: four corpora of spoken New Zealand English and a data set collected from a range of current media sources. Results from this study suggest that mate is in retreat in younger New Zealanders’ speech, while bro may be increasing in usage as an unmarked form. Results also suggest that both man and guys have a largely gender free status and are being used frequently in New Zealand. These findings contribute to the growing interest sociolinguists are taking in informal address terms by providing an analysis of the interactional and social functions of address forms in New Zealand English.