Assertion and Accommodation: a Study of the Assertive Language in the Conversations of School-Age (5-13 Years) Girls
This study aimed to investigate the use of accommodation of assertive utterances (AUs) in the conversations of 49 girls aged 5;0-13;1. Based on the findings of earlier research that the use of such language is more closely related to age than to gender, it was predicted speakers would accommodate their use of and response to assertive utterances as a result of their partner’s age. Naturalistic language from these speakers was collected over a year, and evidence of accommodation was observed in all speakers. Fewer AUs were used with younger speakers compared to older ones, and those used with younger girls were more likely to be produced with the sole purpose of controlling the hearer’s behaviour. In addition, AUs were more likely to be complied with, or accepted, when they were produced by older girls. Given what is known about the types of language used by powerful/powerless individuals, it appears that these speakers consider age to be an indicator of status. A particularly interesting finding was that it was the age of a speaker in relation to other members of the conversation that influenced their use of and response to AUs, rather than the age of the speaker alone.
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