Part three Messages152

Communication accommodation theoryOften people with different speaking styles communicate with each other, even from within the same nation. Basil Bernstein (1966) stated that the social situation, including commu-nicative context (for example, a job interview versus a party) and social relationships (for example, peers versus status unequals), dictates the forms of speaking used in a particular situation. Bernstein suggested that in all cultures, there are different types of codes. A restricted code is a code used by people who know each other well, such as jargon or argot. Jargon refers to a vocabulary used by people within a specific profession or area (such as rugby players or mine workers), while argot refers to language used by those in a particular underclass, often to differentiate themselves from a dominant culture (e.g., pros-titutes, prisoners). However, as people get to know each other better, even good friends can develop this sort of linguistic shorthand, speaking in terms or references that others do not understand. In an elaborated code, people spell out the details of meaning in the words in a way that those outside of the group can understand them. This switching back and forth between codes is called code-switching. Effective communicators should be able to speak in restricted codes appropriate to their context, but also know how to switch to elaborated code (for example, to include outsiders)—to change their vocabulary, level of formality, and so on, to match the audience and social occasion.

Based on the notions of different codes within a community, as well as code-switching and other theoretical ideas, Howard Giles and his colleagues introduced communication accommodation theory (Giles & Noels, 2002; Gallois et al., 2005). This theory predicts how people adjust their communication in certain situations, the factors that lead to such changes, and the outcomes of different types of changes.

In the U.S. television series, Lost, through a series of flashbacks and present commu-nication, we observe the speech of Jin Kwon (Daniel Dae Kim), a Korean man, the son of a fisherman, but hired by a wealthy restaurant owner. In some cases, his communica-tion is respectful, indirect, deferential; in others, it is direct, friendly or aggressive, and nonverbally more expressive. In some cases, he might change his behavior to be more like that of the person with whom he is speaking (convergence), and in others, he

Break it down

Tell about a time that you moved back and forth between an elaborated and a restricted code.

This might have happened at a workplace, if your work has a specific jargon, or even as you

move between slang your friends use and the talk you use with parents or teachers. What are

some ways that “code-switching” can be effective or ineffective in communication? How can we

use an awareness of others around us (such as international students) to use code-switching

appropriately to make their communication adjustment easier and to make them feel more


Baldwin, J. R., Coleman, R. R. M., González, A., Shenoy-Packer, S., & González, A. (2014). Intercultural communication for everyday life. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.Created from apus on 2022-03-30 00:24:13.


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