In this post, we will look at how relationships that people have can play a role in how they communicate with those around them. Understanding this can help people to comprehend differences in communication style.
In sociolinguistics, social networks can refer to the pattern of informal relationships that people have and experience on a consistent basis. There are two dimensions that can be used to describe a person’s social network. These two terms are density and plexity.
The density of a social network refers to how well people in your network know each other. In other words, density is how well your friends know each other. We all have friends, we have friends who know each other, and we have friends who do not know each other.
If many of your friends know each other then the density is high. If your friends do not know each other the density is low. An example of a high-density network would be the typical family. Everybody knows each other. An example of a low-density network would be employees at a large company. In such a situation it would not be hard to find a friend of a friend that you do not know.
Plexity is a measure of the various types of interactions that you are involved in with other people. Plexity can be uniplex, which involves one type of interaction with a person or multiplex, which involves many types of interactions with a person.
An example of a uniplex interaction may be a worker with their boss. They only interact at work. A multiplex interaction would again be with members of one’s family. When dealing with family interactions could include school, work, recreation, shopping, etc. In all these examples it is the same people interacting in a multitude of settings.
Language Use in Social Networks
A person’s speech almost always reflects the network that they belong too. If the group is homogeneous we will almost always speak the way everyone else does assuming we want to be a part of the group. For example, a group of local construction workers will more than likely use similar language patterns due to the homogeneous nature of the group while a group of ESL bankers would not as they come from many different countries.
When a person belongs to more than one social network they will almost always unconsciously change the way they communicate based on the context. For example, anybody who has moved away from home communicates differently where they live than when they communicate with family and friends back home. This is true even when moving from one place to another in the same province or state in your country.
The language that people employ is affected by the dynamics of the social network. We naturally will adjust our communication to accommodate who we are talking too.