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Language Expectancy Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Language Expectancy Theory

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

In any situation we will have expectations about what language will and will not be used. When language outside this region is used, we will be surprised and possibly shocked.

For example men are expected to use stronger language than women. Men are also expected to use stronger language when they are with other men than when a woman is present. And men on a football field are expected to use stronger language still.

When language that is unexpected or vivid is used, then it is often remembered more, possibly because the listener thinks about it more, perhaps to try and understand why it was used or to process the mental pictures created.

Research

Burgoon, Jones and Stewart (1975) found that women using intense language were less persuasive than men using the same language.

Example

My teenage daughter has picked up some rather choice language from her peers and has started to use it at home. I find use of such foul-mouthed words in my home appalling, especially from her.

So what?

Using it

Understand the effects of language in a given situation. Know when you will surprise and shock and use the appropriate words for desired effect.

See also

Communication Accommodation Theory, Information Processing Theory

References

Burgoon, Jones and Stewart (1975), Burgoon (1989, 1995)

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