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Accommodative speech and terms of endearment: elements of a language mode often experienced by older adults

Brown, Angie; Draper, Peter


Angie Brown

Peter Draper


Aim. To discuss the use of patronizing patterns of speech and modified forms of address in conversations between nurses and other health workers, and older people.

Rationale. The impetus for this paper was the publication of the National Service Framework for Older People , which draws attention to the prevalence of age discrimination and the need to provide individualized care.

Approach. The literature between 1990 and 2001 was reviewed in a systematic way. Certain key, older texts were also identified. Twenty‐four publications were found, which examine the ways in which nurses and other health workers modify their speech when conversing with older people, discuss what older people think about this practice, or otherwise contribute to this issue.

Results. The paper uses speech accommodation theory to explain how the language addressed to older people is sometimes modified. The practice of over‐accommodation is also described. This happens when older people are addressed in a simplified vocabulary with a high‐pitched tone of voice and slow speech. The extent of over‐accommodation is discussed, and its impact on older people is considered in terms of fostered dependence and lowered self‐esteem.

Conclusion. The findings of the review in the context of current policy related to older people and implications for nursing education are discussed.


Brown, A., & Draper, P. (2003). Accommodative speech and terms of endearment: elements of a language mode often experienced by older adults. Journal of advanced nursing, 41(1), 15-21.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 7, 2002
Online Publication Date Jan 10, 2003
Publication Date 2003-01
Journal Journal of Advanced Nursing
Print ISSN 0309-2402
Electronic ISSN 1365-2648
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 41
Issue 1
Pages 15-21
Keywords Communication; Older people; Patronizing language; Speech accommodation theory
Public URL
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