Communicating across educational boundaries: Accommodation patterns in adolescents' online interactions
2022-04-13, 09:30–10:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 3

The present study analyzes the phenomenon of linguistic accommodation, i.e. the adaptation of one's language use to that of one's conversation partner (see e.g. Dragojevic, Gasiorek, & Giles 2015 for an overview on the sociolinguistic framework of 'Communication Accommodation Theory'). We address multiple under-researched aspects in accommodation research by examining informal written online interactions, by focusing on adolescents as a target group, and by zooming in on the socio-demographic variable of education (i.e. the adolescents' educational track in secondary school).
The analyses of the accommodation patterns are based on a large corpus (> 1.7 million tokens) of private online conversations produced by Flemish secondary school students (i.e. living in Flanders, Dutch-speaking Belgium) on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. We use mixed-effects Poisson regression models to examine whether the teenagers adjust their online writing style depending on their interlocutor's educational profile, while also taking into account the extent to which these adaptation patterns are influenced by the authors' own educational background or by other aspects of their socio-demographic profiles (see also Hilte, Vandekerckhove, & Daelemans, in press). Strikingly, although the corpus does reveal accommodation patterns, the adjustments do not always mirror actual variation patterns related to educational profiles. While salient features like expressive markers (including e.g. emoji use) seem to lead to pattern-matching, less salient features (e.g. particular markers of colloquial speech) appear less prone to 'adequate' adjustment. Apart from potential differences with respect to the salience of features, lack of familiarity with the online behavior of students from other educational tracks could be an explanatory factor too (see also Hilte, Vandekerckhove, & Daelemans 2019), since online communication clearly proceeds primarily within 'same-education' peer group networks. The focus on cross-educational communication is quite unique in this respect and highly relevant from a sociological perspective.


Dragojevic, Marko, Jessica Gasiorek, & Howard Giles. (2015). Communication accommodation theory. In Charles R. Berger & Michael E. Roloff (Eds), The international encyclopedia of interpersonal communication (Vol. 1) (pp. 1-21), Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell.

Hilte, Lisa, Reinhild Vandekerckhove & Walter Daelemans. (2019). Adolescents' perceptions of social media writing: Has non-standard become the new standard? European Journal of Applied Linguistics 7(2): 189-224. doi:10.1515/eujal-2019-0005

Hilte, Lisa, Reinhild Vandekerckhove, & Walter Daelemans. (in press). Modeling adolescents' online writing practices: The sociolectometry of non-standard writing on social media. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik.