Speech Accommodation Theory

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The Theory of Communication Accommodation

Everyone has a unique speech style of their own and this talking style would change depending on infinite numbers of variables reasons such as the surroundings, the topic, the person you are talking to, how close you are and other factors. People can adjust their accent, pronunciation and gestures to interact with others. The theory of communication accommodation is an evolution of Speech Accommodation Theory which developed by Howard Giles in 1973. This essay will explain the definition of communication accommodation, which contains two processes (convergence and divergence) and describe its applications in virtual communities, the area of language acquisition and education. It will then evaluate
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This theory particularly ‘focused on the cognitive and affective processes underlying individuals ' convergence and divergence through speech.’ (Gallois, 2005) Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) is an evolution of this theory. CAT increases ‘non-verbal and discursive dimensions of social interaction’ (Giles, 1991) on the basis of speech level and contains other respects of communication. It can be used to explain a larger range of phenomena (verbal and nonverbal behaviours) than the previous theory. In addition, CAT is identified as the connections between language, context and identity. (Gallois, Ogay & Giles, 2005)

When people communicate with others, they would adjust their talking patterns by using different accents, dictions and various body languages according to the different groups of people to accommodate with their interlocutors. For instance, people would speak slower in foreign languages than using their mother tongue or they would use simple words and phrases when talking to babies or children. In other words, people are able to adapt themselves to different kinds of situations.

In communication accommodation theory, there are two main accommodation processes. One is ‘convergence’ which refers to people adjusting their communicative behaviours to minimize their social
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Convergence of communication has many different features and people can converge through these features by changing their pronunciation, intonation, length of utterance, acoustic intensities, gestural behaviours and intimacy level of self-disclosures. (Giles and Smith, 1979) However, people do not need to converge all these levels at the same time. It is normal that people show convergence at some levels and use divergence at others. During communication, people would change their convergence levels through interlocutors’ backgrounds and behaviours. People who have similar faith, personality and behaviours are more attractive. ‘When communicators are attracted to others they will converge in their conversations.’ (Turner & West, 2010) Nevertheless, people do not need to converge with their interlocutors all the time, to what extent people converge depends on their ‘desired social distance’. (Pardo, 2016) Converging normally increase the desire for further communication and enhance the attraction between the listener and the speaker, which means the person who converges would have a more positive appraisal and leaves a good impression on listeners. Thus the convergence is considered as the reflection of ‘an individual’s desire for social approval’ (Giles & Coupland, 1991) from his communicators, people are

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