Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Communication Accommodation Theory

A bit early, but our first week discussion will have us talking around the notion of Communication Accommodation Theory, first introduced to the field of human communication by noted scholar Dr. Howard "Howie" Giles of the University of California - Santa Barbara. In general, the theory attempts to explain how individuals come to adapt their communicative styles to one another as they spend more time with each other (see "Linguistic Power Struggle" to the left for an example). 

While the theory is not specifically or uniquely restricted to the study of intercultural communication, it is not hard to see how the theory might help explain variance in both our initial and continued interactions with folks from another culture; after all, one way we can understand cultural differences is in terms of communicative behavioral differences (both at the verbal and non-verbal level). A particularly interesting phenomenon associated with this is that of code-switching, which tends to really get at folks who are bi- or multi-lingual (or really, code-mixing as they tend to 'mesh' different linguistic and para-linguistic styles together). As students of communication, we'll be on the lookout for these behaviors and we'll make note as we see it.

Where might this stuff matter? I'll say that it's heavily studied in the context of organizational communication - particularly as we see an increasingly global corporate environment. But even in simple interviews and interactions, we see evidence of CAT as well as influences on perceived social status (here's a study by Gregory and Webster, 1996 that speaks to this somewhat).

For that first class (we're meeting Monday, 24 June at 10am, over at Double B) we're going to talk about some of these concepts. But, you'll want to read the following articles (one is a short encyclopedia entry, the other is a standard research article) to become familiar with the theory - the citation is below (and if you have problems accessing this article, e-mail me for a .pdf copy from the WVU repository).
Otherwise, read this article and the links contained in the short entry below, and we'll talk CAT on Monday! (NOTE: CAT might explain why I format my dates differently when working with SPICE). 

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