May 282020

Anna Stacey

University of Manitoba

  10 Responses to “An investigation into the vocative bro: Connections between speaker, purpose and position”

  1. Hello! I’ll be on this page during the poster session to respond to any questions/comments, and can also be reached at Thanks!

  2. Interesting poster and conclusions regarding the innovative “bro-initial” construction. I wonder if you have any thoughts on the alternative (orthographic) form “brah”, its emergence and use by certain types of speakers.
    Thanks for your presentation!

    • Hello, thanks for your interest! I’m honestly not sure about the origins of that variant. I only included instances of ‘bro’ itself in my data, although my advisor does have a forthcoming paper that includes the different variants, so perhaps there will be some ‘brah’-exclusive observations in there. If you’re interested in a personal anecdote, I will say that I myself would use ‘bruh’ (yet another orthographic alternative?) as a sort of exaggerated version of ‘bro’, in response to something really surprising. In regards to your point about it being used by ‘certain types of speakers’, I wonder if ‘brah’ might have even stronger frat-boy associations than bro, and thus perhaps not the same versatility/lasting power.

  3. Thanks for your poster, and for the very helpful audio overview! I have a couple of questions:

    My first question is methodological: How did you determine the ethnicities of the speakers and addressees in the Twitter data?

    The second question is about the broader context of your research: Do you have a sense of how bro compares to other words that can be used with either a vocative or an exclamative meaning (such as man, which can be vocative as in “I love you, man” or exclamative as in “Man, I love linguistics!”)?

    • Glad you found it helpful! Thank you for your questions.
      1) With a lot of time, haha. I would go to the profile of each bro-user I found (and their addressee) and look at their profile picture, other photos, or tweets for explicit references to their identity. Many users do have a clear photo of themselves, but of course it is often still unclear so I did end up with quite a few of ‘unknown’ ethnicity. Fortunately, the survey data requires participants to include their ethnicity themselves, so that data will be relied on more in regards to speaker ethnicity.

      2) It definitely seems possible that ‘bro’ is undergoing the process that grammaticalized ‘man’ to the more discourse marker-esque function it has today. Younger female speakers, as seen in the twitter data, do seem to be using ‘bro’ primarily in the exclamative sense you described. Though I believe there is precedent for this demographic as linguistic change-makers, we’ll have to see if that use exists outside digital media and spreads beyond that speaker group. Could be a neat opportunity to witness a change in progress!

  4. Very interesting work, and I enjoyed the audio while going through the poster! I wonder if you know of similar phenomena in other languages. The vocative “hombre”, very common in Spain comes to mind…

    • Thank you! Although I’m not aware of ‘hombre’ myself, I did read a few papers on Spanish vocatives, including Alba-Juez (2015) which compared English ‘man’ to Peninsular Spanish ‘macho’ and ‘tío’. One aspect that really interested me there was that female speakers could easily change the forms to ‘macha’/’tía’, and apparently the latter is indeed quite popular. In English meanwhile, female speakers seem to be reaching for ‘bro’ in the absence of any common female alternatives (except maybe ‘girl’ in African-American women’s English). I also recall Kleinknecht (2013) on Mexican ‘güey’ and Moyna (2017) on ‘che’ and ‘bo’ in Montevideo Spanish, so there seems to be no shortage of interesting Spanish vocatives!

  5. Thanks for this poster! Can I ask, how do the ratios of people using ‘bro’ compare to the participants overall? Are Twitter users overall disproportionately women, for example?

    • Thank you for reading! It’s certainly a valid question, and I would say that in all three data sets, the proportions of speakers do not indicate the real proportions of ‘bro’ users (clearly, since each set has such different proportions!), but instead allow us to consider how different demographics do use ‘bro’. That is, in the twitter data for example, I wouldn’t conclude that more women use ‘bro’ than men, but simply that the twitter data is a chance for us to investigate how women who do use ‘bro’ are using it. I’d love to know the true demographic make-up of ‘bro’ users, but unfortunately it’s probably more realistic to investigate connections between things like speaker gender and how that speaker uses ‘bro’.

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