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Accommodating the elderly: Invoking and extending a theory1

  • Nikolas Coupland (a1), Justine Coupland (a1), Howard Giles (a2) and Karen Henwood (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 18 December 2008

The article begins by exploring briefly the role of the elderly in sociolinguistic theory and research. After an outline of the parameters of speech accommodation theory together with a new schematic model, it is argued that speech accommodation theory is a profitable framework for elucidating the sociolinguistic mechanics of, and the social psychological processes underlying, intergenerational encounters. A recent conceptual foray in this direction, which highlights young-to-elderly language strategies, is then overviewed with some illustrations. Contrastive data from a case study are then introduced, a discourse analysis of which allows us to conceptualize various elderly-to-young language strategies. This interpretive analysis suggests important avenues for extending speech accommodation theory itself. A revised, more sociolinguistically elaborated version of this framework is then presented which highlights strategies beyond those of convergence, maintenance, and divergence and leads to the conceptualization of over- and underaccommodation. Finally, and on the basis of the foregoing, a new model of intergenerational communication is proposed and Ryan et al.'s (1986) “communicative predicament” framework duly revised. (Accommodation theory, elderly, overaccommodation, case studies, discourse management, stereotypes, underaccommodation, interdisciplinary)

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