Vocative phrases are nominal expressions referring to the hearer that are used to attract the hearer’s attention (as in 1) or to signal and maintain the social link in a conversation (as in 2). The noun is a personal name or another address form, such as a kinship term, a title, or some other person-denoting noun (or rarely, a personal pronoun of the second person).
A vocative phrase may contain a vocative marker, i.e. an element that does not occur when the nominal expression is used in the ordinary way, to refer to a 3rd person. We see the vocative marker -o in (1), and a vocative phrase lacking a vocative marker in (2). In this chapter, we ask whether a language has a vocative marker and if so, whether the vocative marker precedes or follows the nominal expression. (Vocative markers are sometimes treated as cases, as in Daniel & Spencer (2009), but our languages do not have case paradigms, so there is no reason to call vocative markers cases here.)
There is not much earlier research on vocative phrases that we were able to rely on, so we defined vocative marker in a very general way, as an element that accompanies the address term and appears to mark it as vocative. One could argue that elements such as hey in English and similar forms in related languages (e.g. 3) are not vocative markers, because all they do is attract the hearer’s attention: They can also be used without address terms, and they have no particularly close association with nominal expressions.
But many languages have particles that are clearly specialized for marking address terms, and since we had no good way of telling them apart from more general particles like hey, we included them. (However, attention-drawing interjections were excluded from consideration when we had no evidence that they can occur adjacent to address terms.)
We distinguish the following five values:
|Optional vocative marker preceding noun||27|
|Optional vocative marker following noun||19|
|Optional vocative marker in both positions||4|
|Obligatory vocative marker preceding noun||1|
|No vocative marker||19|
The value names mention the position with respect to the “noun”, because in most cases the nominal is a single noun, but it may also be a complex phrase with modifiers, as in (4).
In the following, we discuss and illustrate the first four types. (The absence of a vocative marker is illustrated by (2) above.)
The most frequent type is the optional vocative marker preceding the noun (value 1). This is also the position where vocative markers occur in the European lexifiers, and the two most frequent particles (h)e(y) and o are clearly derived from European sources.
We have no systematic data about the conditions under which optional vocative markers occur, but it seems that they are especially common when the vocative phrase is used to attract attention (rather than to maintain the social link).
Vocative markers that follow the noun (value 2) are also quite common in pidgins and creoles, but these do not derive from European languages. But interestingly, their shapes are again most commonly e (cf. 7) and o (cf. 8):
Further languages with postposed o are English-based Nigerian and Cameroon Pidgin English, Creolese (10a) and Nengee, and French-based Guyanais, Guadeloupean and Martinican Creole, and Mauritian and Seychelles Creole (cf. 1).
There seems to be no doubt that the postposed vocative marker o is due to African substrate influence. For example, Yoruba has a particle o that follows a greeting and that is used to attract the addressee’s attention (Rowlands 1969: 50). Bartens (2011: 219) mentions the postposed vocative marker -e in Twi and the postposed marker o in Fante, and concludes that “postposed vocative markers are a substratal feature in [San Andres Creole English]”. We know of no systematic research on African languages, but it appears from our examples of Sango (see (4) above) and Lingala (see (8c) above) that the postposed o may well be more common in the area and not even restricted to West Africa.
Four languages have two different markers (value 3), one following the nominal (always o) and one preceding the nominal (e or we). There are no vocative markers that show flexible order.
(Devonish & Thompson 2013) call the preposed marker eey a “proximal vocative” because “it tends to be used for people who are within sight of the caller”, while the postposed marker oo is a “distal vocative”, used “to call to people who are out of sight, as, for example, inside a house”. They also note that the distal vocative is regarded as old-fashioned, which of course fits well with its proposed African origin. (The obsolescence of the postposed vocative marker is also noted for Guyanais and San Andres Creole English.)
Portuguese-based Casamancese Creole is very similar, with preposed (h)ey and postposed o, as are Guadeloupean and Martinican Creole, except that they have the preposed marker wé (wé Diana ‘hey Diana!’)