The Usage of xiǎojiě (小姐) in Contemporary Chinese: Synchronic Differences in Distribution and Possibilities for Diachronic Change



Hu Fanzhu, Fan Xiaoling


Work Unit:

College of International Chinese Studies, East China Normal University;College of International Chinese Studies, East China Normal University


Vol.1 No.1 (Serial No.1) 2007






xiǎojiě (小姐, miss) is a popular form of address in contemporary Chinese; generally speaking, it is defined as a title for “unmarried girl”. This form has multiple connotations. Given recent changes in society, some think that, xiǎojiě (小姐) will become a widely-used form of address, while others think that young females will come to consider the title repulsive. None can have the final say, this is because the synchronic language differences are not only the result of the synchronic change but also possibly its sign. Since synchronic differences could not only be a result of diachronic change but also could herald further change, it is not clear what direction xiǎojiě (小姐) will take. In the language conflicts, when two language varieties conflict, the more common variety usually influences the less common. A field investigation in large cities throughout China thus allows us not only to draw A Distributional Map of Pragmatic Features of the Title xiǎojiě (小姐), but also enables us to see its diachronic possibilities.

Key Words:

address, xiǎojiě, pragmatics, synchronic distribution, diachronic change




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