Vocatives: Calling, Recalling and Modes of Address

RELATED TERMS: Remembering:Mnemonics, Mnemotechnics and Memory];

A vocative expression is one in which a person is directly referred to in dialogue, for example, by their name, their job title or position or by a term of endearment, respect or disrespect.

In the context of writing, vocatives can serve several purposes, such as, to help readers to keep track of who is saying what to whom; to enrich characters’ emotions by conveying a deeper sense of urgency, frustration, surprise or patience; or to show how characters relate to one other.

In the design of narrative environments, vocative expressions are often distributed across media, for example, a welcoming architectural threshold accompanied by a graphic sign reinforcing the invitation to enter. Once inside, the visitor or participant needs to be repeatedly addressed vocatively in order to be guided through the experience.


Harnby, L. (2019) Addressing others in dialogue: using vocatives, The Editing Blog. Available at: (Accessed: 6 April 2021).

Tunis, C. (2007) Scopic / vocative, The Chicago School of Media Theory. Available at: (Accessed: 6 April 2021).