Language Style Accommodation in Webcare Conversations

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentationScientific


Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT; Giles, Coupland, & Coupland, 1991) postulates that language users adjust their communicative behavior to the setting, theme, or conversation partner. Interlocutors can move closer to each other by accommodating with their verbal or non-verbal language (convergence) or can create distance by magnifying disparities (divergence). The current study examined language style accommodation (also called ‘alignment’) in social media messages between organizations and consumers. The interactive online environment requires adjustments to organizations’ corporate language, to accommodate to the informal register of consumers on Web 2.0 (e.g., Fournier & Avery, 2011; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010), which has resulted in the conceptualization of a conversational human voice (CHV), “an engaging and natural style of organizational communication as perceived by an organization’s publics” (Kelleher, 2009, p. 177). Previous content analyses have shown that organizations indeed adopt linguistic elements of CHV in webcare messages to consumers (e.g., Huibers & Verhoeven, 2014; van Hooijdonk & Liebrecht, 2018), but the language style accommodation of both conversation partners remains uninvestigated.
In a large-scale corpus study, we examined whether consumers and organizations accommodate their language style to each other online. With the Coosto social media monitoring tool, a sample (N = 2400 messages) was created of webcare conversations on Facebook and Twitter, involving eight organizations per medium, distributed over three industries (electronics, furniture, food). The taxonomy of Liebrecht, Tsaousi, and Van Hooijdonk (2021) with seventeen subcategories that can be classified to three CHV tactics (Personalization, Informal language, and Invitational rhetoric) (van Noort, Willemsen, Kerkhof & Verhoeven, 2014) was applied to all consumer and organizational messages in webcare conversations to explore whether, how, and when consumers and organizations accommodate their language style to that of their interlocutor. Particular attention was paid to accommodation with emoji, a salient aspect of informal language. Findings and implications will be presented.
Period28 Oct 2021
Event titleConference on Computer-Mediated Communication CMC and Social Media Corpora
Event typeConference
Conference number8
LocationNijmegen, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • webcare
  • cmc
  • emoji
  • language style accommodation