Document Type


Publication Date



Walter de Gruyter


Speech accommodation theory refers to an individual's adaptation of his or her speech to more closely approximate that of an interlocutor. A change to the interlocutor's language is one of the most obvious and observable forms of accommodation. Language choices are shaped by the linguistic proficiency of both speaker and interlocutor, the ingroup or outgroup status of each, and the situational norms for the setting in which an exchange takes place. Language choices in the workplace are further influenced by company policies and by the asymmetrical power dynamic in worker-customer interactions.

This paper reports on data from service encounters with individuals who use Spanish and English in the workplace. Seven fieldworkers, acting as customers, entered businesses in New York City and initiated exchanges in Spanish, noting the worker's language of response. In the majority of encounters conducted for this project, accommodation to the customer's language choice came at the first turn. It was predicted that a customer's non-Latino ethnicity would be the most important factor in a worker's non-accommodation, but the worker's youth turned out to have the greatest effect on whether a non-reciprocal response was given.


Copyright © 2006 Walter de Gruyter. Reprinted with permission.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.