An Investigation into how Non-native Language Patterns Shape the Relationship Between Immigrants and Host Country Natives
Birney, Megan Elizabeth
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Temporary embargo in place while chapters from the thesis are published.
Although social psychologists have made important strides towards understanding the effects of stigma on both individuals’ behaviours and their relationships with non-stigmatized groups, language patterns within this domain have largely been ignored. This thesis aims to address this gap by investigating the role that language patterns play in shaping the relationship between native and non-native speakers against the backdrop of an increasingly relevant context in which communicators with diverse language backgrounds interact: Immigration. Drawing on both communication accommodation theory (CAT) and intergroup contact theory, I investigate the processes by which language styles influence perceptions of both individuals and the groups they represent, as well as attempt to determine how language-based categorizations affect those whose language style deviates from majority group norms. Across six studies, I take the perspective of native speakers and demonstrate that perceptions of communicators based on their language are not uniform but are determined by factors including the style of language used and the speaker’s background. I then take the perspective of non-native speakers and, across two studies, show that negative perceptions of non-native accents can result in poorer interactions with the native speaking out-group as well as a reduced ability to comprehend and communicate in the host country’s language. In sum, the eight studies presented in this thesis demonstrate that perceptions related to one’s style of language can be detrimental to the relationship between native and non-native speakers and by extension host country natives and immigrants. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
University of Exeter
PhD in Psychology