Multilingual Accommodation in Namibia: An Examination of Six Ethnolinguistic Groups’ Language Use in Intra- and Intergroup Interactions

Gerald Stell, Marko Dragojevic

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined how six different ethnolinguistic groups in Windhoek, capital of Namibia, adjust their language use during intergroup encounters. Invoking communication accommodation theory, we predicted that relatively low-vitality groups (high-vitality groups) would be inclined towards linguistic convergence (maintenance), but that these general patterns would be moderated by prevailing sociocultural norms and each group’s language proficiency. These hypotheses were largely supported. Relatively low-vitality groups tended to linguistically converge (typically via lingua francas), whereas relatively high-vitality groups tended to engage in linguistic maintenance. This resulted in two distinct patterns of adjustment: (a) symmetrical accommodation in interactions involving groups of relatively equal vitality, typically consisting of mutual convergence to lingua francas or mutual maintenance of a shared heritage language and (b) asymmetrical accommodation in intergroup interactions involving groups of relatively unequal vitality, typically consisting of upward convergence among lower vitality groups, and maintenance among higher vitality groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-187
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • accommodation
  • convergence
  • ethnolinguistic vitality
  • intergroup
  • maintenance
  • multilingualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

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