Communication Accommodation Theory

Topics: Communication, International Communication Association, Sociology Pages: 25 (900 words) Published: May 13, 2015

By Irfan and Kais

It’s also called the CAT

◦ …. But not this kind of cat

When speakers
interact, they adjust
their speech, their
vocal patterns, and
their gestures to
accommodate others.

What influenced the birth of the

Social Identity Theory
A theory that proposes a person’s identity
and is shaped by the groups to which he
or she belongs (Tajfel & Turner, 1970).

Accommodation Theory

◦ Groups in which a person feels he or she
◦ In groups include family as well as people of the
same race, culture, gender, or religion. 
◦ Groups in which a person feels he or she does
not belong.
◦ For out groups, an individual feels contempt,
opposition, or a sense of competition.
In group and out group formation and ingroup/out-group bias may affect a number of group phenomena such as prejudice and conflicts
between groups. 

Founder of theory

Howard Giles is a professor of communication at the
Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara. He was the chair of the department from 1991 to
1998, and has been president of both the International
Communication Association and the International Association for the Study of Language and Social Psychology.
He is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Language and
Social Psychology and the Journal of Asian Pacific
Communication, and was the editor of Human Communication
Research from 1992 to 1995.
He has received the Spearman Award and the President's Award from the British Psychological Society, and has also received the Mark L. Knapp Award from the National Communication
He is known for developing communication accommodation
theory, and has diverse research interests in the areas of
applied intergroup communication research and theory.

Definition of theory
◦ In the present study, we will content ourselves with accommodation theory or "accommodative processes" (Giles & Coupland, 1991) in relation to identity, with a view to shedding light on the different ways in which speakers may manipulate language "to maintain integrity, distance or identity" (ibid, p. 66). ◦ Accommodation is to be seen as a multiply-organized and contextually complex set of alternatives, regularly available to communicators in face-to-face talk. It can function to index and achieve solidarity with or dissociation from a conversational partner, reciprocally and dynamically (Giles & Coupland, 1991: 60-61).

◦ Thus, although regional, ethnic, and lower-class individuals have limited access to opportunities for acquiring the prestige variety compared to members of the high status groups, much of the failure of these individuals to profit from whatever opportunities are available is due to counter-acting pressures favouring their native speech styles (Patterson 1975, cited in Giles & Clair, 1979).

Assumptions of Communication
Accommodation Theory
1. Speech and behavioural similarities and dissimilarities exist in all conversations. 2. The manner in which we perceive the speech and behaviours of another will determine how we evaluate a conversation.

• Process of attending to
and interpreting a

• Process of judging a

3. Language and behaviours impart information about social status and group belonging. 4. Accommodation varies in its degree of appropriateness, and norms guide the accommodation process. #Norms: Social norms are the expectations about behaviour that members of a community feel should occur about a particular situation.

Video communication
accommodation theory

Main concept: Convergence
◦ Someone who changes their speech patterns to match the speech patterns of the other person.
◦ Dressing like a particular group you want to fit in with. ◦ Mirroring your speech to match the professionalism of your boss.


References: ◦ Giles, H. & Coupland, N. 1991. Language: Contexts and Consequences. Keynes:
Open University Press.
◦ Giles, H. & Clair, R. 1979. Language and Social Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell.
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