Speech accommodation theory refers to an individual's adaptation of his or her speech to more closely approximate that of an interlocutor. A change to the interlocutor's language is one of the most obvious and observable forms of accommodation. Language choices are shaped by the linguistic proficiency of both speaker and interlocutor, the ingroup or outgroup status of each, and the situational norms for the setting in which an exchange takes place. Language choices in the workplace are further influenced by company policies and by the asymmetrical power dynamic in worker-customer interactions. This paper reports on data from service encounters with individuals who use Spanish and English in the workplace. Seven fieldworkers, acting as customers, entered businesses in New York City and initiated exchanges in Spanish, noting the worker's language of response. In the majority of encounters conducted for this project, accommodation to the customer's language choice came at the first turn. It was predicted that a customer's non-Latino ethnicity would be the most important factor in a worker's non-accommodation, but the worker's youth turned out to have the greatest effect on whether a non-reciprocal response was given.
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