Group picture conference INAR 2023
Group picture conference INAR 2023

Processing pronouns of address (ImPro)

1 September 2021 until 1 January 2027
Project type

In languages such as Dutch, German, French, and Spanish, speakers have a choice between using a polite or informal pronoun when addressing others. This choice depends on a variety of factors such as age, gender, level of education, religion, social distance, individual preferences, etc. Because address choices reflect social structures and cultural values, much research has been devoted to the sociolinguistic study of the speaker’s choice of address pronouns. The innovative potential of this project is that it takes the addressee’s perspective instead. It seeks to investigate the impact of the use of a polite or informal pronoun on the addressee. It is generally assumed that people who are being addressed by a pronoun they perceive as inappropriate in a given context may feel uncomfortable or even offended on the one hand, or pleased and flattered on the other. Hypotheses on the impact of the choice of pronoun on addressees will be put to a test in a series of psycholinguistic experiments. Because previous literature has pointed to cross-linguistic differences in the choice between polite and informal second person pronouns, the experiments will be conducted in four different languages that are similar in some respects but vary in others. The results of this project potentially have great relevance for (intercultural) business communication, education, and translation.This project is also known as ImPro, since it is about studying the impact of pronouns of address.

Project advisors

  • Dr Gijs Mulder, Radboud University Nijmegen
  • Dr Natalia Levshina, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
  • Dr Reinhild Vandekerckhove, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Dr Leo Kretzenbacher, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Em. Prof. Roel Vismans, University of Sheffield, UK
  • Prof. Petra Schumacher, University of Cologne, Germany
  • Dr Philippe Blache, Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Prof. M. Teresa Espinal, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
  • Dr Suzanne Aalberse, University of Amsterdam


  • den Hartog, M., van Hoften, M., & Schoenmakers, G. T. (2022). Pronouns of address in recruitment advertisements from multinational companies. Linguistics in the Netherlands39(1), 39-54.
  • de Hoop, H., Levshina, N., & Segers, M. (2023). The effect of the use of T or V pronouns in Dutch HR communication. Journal of Pragmatics203, 96-109.



  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
  • University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • University of Melbourne, Australia
  • University of Sheffield, UK
  • University of Cologne, Germany
  • Aix-Marseille University, France
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
  • University of Amsterdam

Contact information