Social Psychology and Language
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
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 social psychologists tend to neglect language. Language use, though, has implications for many social psychological processes, and given its role in daily social life, it is important to understand its social underpinnings. The 50+ year history of the field of language and social psychology highlights the relationship between language and communication, and also foregrounds the differences between the social-psychological and communication approaches. One central issue is bilingualism and the relationship 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 at large scale and in rich detail, and which have the potential to transform this research. In part as a consequence, there are now many new topics emerging in language and social psychology, which help to set a new agenda for future research.