Language is a social behavior and a key aspect of social interaction. Language is ubiquitous and usually occurs with other human behaviors across diverse contexts. Thus, it is difficult to study it in isolation. This difficulty may be why most, albeit not all, social psychologists tend to neglect language, in spite of the prominence of language in early 20th century social psychology and the presence of numerous handbooks and reviews of this area. Language use has implications for many social psychological processes, and, given its role in daily social life, it is important to understand its social underpinnings. The field of language and social psychology highlights the relationship between language and communication and foregrounds the differences between the social-psychological and communication approaches. One central issue is bilingualism and the relationships among language, identity, and culture. Another is methodology, where social psychologists have tended to choose experimental and survey strategies to look at language (not always to the best advantage). This century has seen the development of new technologies that allow us to look at language on a large scale and in rich detail and that have the potential to transform this research. In part as a consequence, in the early 21st century there are many new topics emerging in language and social psychology that help to set a new agenda for future research.
Susan C. Baker, Bernadette M. Watson, and Cindy Gallois
The subfield of communication and intergroup relations attempts to disentangle the ways in which human message exchange is influenced by, and itself affects, relations between social groups. Typically, the social groups considered are large scale groups (e.g., national, religious, ethnic groups), but similar processes can also be applied to smaller groups such as families or work groups. Specifically, the field of communication and intergroup relations considers how social interaction is changed when the interlocutors belong to (or perceive themselves as belonging to) specific social groups, and how everyday talk about groups changes perceptions and attitudes concerning those groups. The subfield also considers how broader societal messages relate to group memberships. For instance, how do media messages reflect the macrosocial position of particular groups, and do media messages influence how consumers think about group memberships and intergroup relations? Underpinning all study of intergroup communication is the belief that intergroup relations are forged, perpetuated, and modified in real-life everyday social communication.
Margaret Jane Pitts and Cindy Gallois
Social markers in language and speech are cues conveyed through verbal and nonverbal means that serve to identify individuals to the groups to which they belong. Social markers can be linguistic, paralinguistic, or extralinguistic in form, and can range from intentional and purposive (e.g., language selection or dialect accentuation) to unintentional and uncontrollable (e.g., vocal features that mark age or sex). They help to provide context for social organization. Extralinguistic cues are those that may be conveyed through gesture and physical appearance (i.e., skin color). However, social markers in language and speech focus on the paralinguistic (i.e., vocal cues such as pitch and tone) and linguistic cues (i.e., language choice, language style, accent, dialect, code-switching, and multilingualism) that mark social categories. Relevant social categories that are made distinctive through language and speech markers include age, sex and gender, social class, ethnicity, and many others. Scholars across disciplines of psychology, social psychology, linguistics, and communication have approached the study of social markers from different perspectives, resulting in theoretical (e.g., communication accommodation theory, ethnolinguistic vitality theory, linguistic intergroup bias) and methodological (e.g., matched-guise technique and ethnography of communication) advancements.