This chapter reports the findings of over 30 years of research on powerful and powerless speech styles and their relationship to dominance and control. The chapter begins with an explanation of how power, dominance and control can be a perceptual phenomenon. It then analyses the research from a molar perspective, where powerful and powerless speech styles are investigated as whole units, and from a molecular perspective, where the individual language features that constitute a powerful or powerless speech style are studied. These perspectives are used to illustrate how powerful and powerless speech styles are perceived as dominant and controlling, as well as how these styles are implicated in changing the attitudes of message recipients.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
Adkins, Mark and Dale E. Brashers (1995). The Power of Language in Computer-Mediated Groups. Management Communication Quarterly 8: 289–322.
Areni, Charles S. and John R. Sparks (2005). Language Power and Persuasion. Psychology and Marketing 22: 507–25.
Blankenship, Kevin L. and Thomas Holtgraves (2005). The Role of Different Markers of Linguistic Powerlessness in Persuasion. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 24: 3–24.
Bradac, James J. and Anthony Mulac (1984a). Attributional Consequences of Powerful and Powerless Speech Styles in a Crisis-Intervention Context. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 3: 1–19.
Bradac, James J. and Anthony Mulac (1984b). A Molecular View of Powerful and Powerless Speech Styles: Attributional Consequences of Specific Language Features and Communicator Intentions. Communication Monographs 51: 307–19.
Bradac, James J., John M. Wiemann and Kathleen Schaefer (1994). The Language of Control in Interpersonal Communication. In John A. Daly and John M. Wiemann (eds), Strategic Interpersonal Communication (pp. 91–108). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Durik, Amanda M., M. Anne Britt, Rebecca Reynolds and Jennifer Storey (2008). The Effects of Hedges in Persuasive Arguments: a Nuanced Analysis of Language. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 27: 217–34.
Erickson, Bonnie, E. Allan Lind, Bruce C. Johnson and William M. O’Barr (1978). Speech Style and Impression Formation in a Court Setting: the Effects of ‘Powerful’ and ‘Powerless’ Speech. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 14: 266–79.
Fragale, Alison R. (2006). The Power of Powerless Speech: the Effects of Speech Style and Task Interdependence on Status Conferral. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 101: 243–61.
Gibbons, Pamela, Jon Busch and James J. Bradac (1991). Powerful versus Powerless Language: Consequences for Persuasion, Impression Formation, and Cognitive Response. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 10: 115–33.
Grice, H. Paul (1975). Logic and Conversation. In Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan (eds), Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts (pp. 41–58). New York: Academic Press.
Holtgraves, Thomas (2002). Language as Social Action: Social Psychology and Language Use. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Holtgraves, Thomas and Benjamin Lasky (1999). Linguistic Power and Persuasion. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 18: 196–205.
Hosman, Lawrence A. (1989). The Evaluative Consequences of Hedges, Hesitations, and Intensifiers: Powerful and Powerless Speech Styles. Human Communication Research 15: 383–406.
Hosman, Lawrence A., Thomas M. Huebner and Susan A. Siltanen (2002). The Impact of Power-of-Speech Style, Argument Strength, and Need for Cognition on Impression Formation, Cognitive Responses, and Persuasion. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 21: 361–79.
Hosman, Lawrence A. and Susan A. Siltanen (1994). The Attributional and Evaluative Consequences of Powerful and Powerless Speech Styles: an Examination of the ‘Control over Others’ and ‘Control of Self’ Explanations. Language & Communication 14: 287–98.
Hosman, Lawrence A. and Susan A. Siltanen (2006). Powerful and Powerless Language Forms: Their Consequences for Impression Formation, Attributions of Control of Self and Control of Others, Cognitive Responses, and Message Memory. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 25: 33–46.
Hosman, Lawrence A. and Susan A. Siltanen (2011). Hedges, Tag Questions, Message Processing, and Persuasion. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 30: 341–9.
Hosman, Lawrence A. and John W. Wright, II (1987). The Effects of Hedges and Hesitations on Impression Formation in a Simulated Courtroom Context. Western Journal of Speech Communication 51: 173–88.
Ng, Sik H. (1980). The Social Psychology of Power. London: Academic Press.
Ng, Sik H. and James J. Bradac (1993). Power in Language: Verbal Communication and Social Influence. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.
Parton, Sabrena R., Susan A. Siltanen, Lawrence A. Hosman and Jeff Langenderfer (2002). Employment Interview Outcomes and Speech Style Effects. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 21: 144–61.
Sparks, John R. and Charles S. Areni (2008). Style versus Substance: Multiple Roles of Language Power in Persuasion. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 38: 37–60.
Sparks, John R., Charles S. Areni and K. Chris Cox (1998). An Investigation of the Effects of Language Style and Communication Modality on Persuasion. Communication Monographs 65: 108–25.
Wright, II, John W. and Lawrence A. Hosman (1983). Language Style and Sex Bias in the Courtroom: the Effects of Male and Female Use of Hedges and Intensifiers on Impression Formation. Southern Speech Communication Journal 48: 137–52.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2015 Lawrence Hosman
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Hosman, L. (2015). Powerful and Powerless Speech Styles and Their Relationship to Perceived Dominance and Control. In: Schulze, R., Pishwa, H. (eds) The Exercise of Power in Communication. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137478382_9
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
Print ISBN: 978-1-349-50227-1
Online ISBN: 978-1-137-47838-2