Address terms are closely related to the conceptualisation of hierarchical relations in a speech community, so, since – at least in Western societies – tendencies towards a flattening of hierarchies have been noted (cf. Mair, 2006), we expect changes in this domain. Some evidence has been produced for German, American and British English, but empirical insights on address choice in Indian English are lacking to date. As it tends to be a conservative variety (cf. e.g. Collins, 2012), we might expect resistance to change.
The study makes a novel use of discourse completion tasks to investigate ongoing change using an ‘apparent-time’ approach. Our findings support the view of Indian English as conservative and of American English as changing most clearly towards informalisation, visible in the increasing use of informal attention getters (hey!). However, evidence of recent change is otherwise not as pronounced as expected and actually absent regarding pronoun choice in German.