Style-shifting through modern technology: Developing new approaches to studying the social application of language in the era of computer-mediated communication

William A Nenadal, Purdue University


Since its creation by Howard Giles in 1973, Accommodation Theory has been used by sociolinguists as way of analyzing the style-shifting tactics of speakers as a way of explaining how it occurs and why it occurs. The Accommodation model has gone through a variety of changes over the decades, growing in complexity and sophistication; however, the growing trend of computer-mediated communication and the popular dialect known as “Netspeak” have moved beyond the scope of the current Accommodation model. While many “real world” style shifting markers persist on a conscious level within gaming environments, many gamers will not converge or diverge in their speech patterns as would normally be predicted. This most likely occurs because all gamers are aware, at some level, that the avatar they see might in no way represent the person controlling it. ^ An alternate approach to style-shifting is Pierre Bourdieu’s system of economic exchanges. His first paper on the concept of using an economic approach to discussing language choices was published in 1977 and like Giles’s work it has grown and developed over the years, but it too has ignored the growing influence of the Internet. ^ This paper will attempt to create a new model by reconciling Giles’s Communicative Accommodation Theory with Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of linguistic capital through the analysis of both personal experiences of the writer, as well as analysis of interviews with gamers. Finally we will use this analysis as a way of suggesting appropriate methods for observing and testing this model on a larger scale. With an appropriate model in place it may be possible to gain a deeper understanding of mechanisms by which style-shifting operates both in virtual and real environments. ^




Mary Niepokuj, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Language, Linguistics|Language, Modern|Speech Communication|Multimedia Communications

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