A common language sustains friendship
Good friends often only need a few words, one already knows what the other means. This could not only be due to the common history, but also to a similar way of speaking: People with a similar style of speaking are more likely to become friends. And then they continue to converge linguistically, as observed by Yale University's Balazs Kovacs and Dartmouth College's Adam Kleinbaum.
First, the researchers examined 285 freshmen at a US private university. Their language samples came from application essays and later test texts. "From a similar language style in the application essay, it can be predicted that students are more likely to become and remain friends, and if they become friends early on, then they get closer linguistically until the exams," the scientists found.
Kovacs and Kleinbaum came up with similar results when they linguistically analyzed 1.7 million reviews for businesses left by almost 160,000 customers in seven cities on the Yelp.com website. A comparison with their contacts in online networks again showed that the more similar the customers expressed themselves, the more likely they were friends with each other. And the longer the friendship, the more the language style had adapted.
People imitate each other because they want to feel like they belong, is how the scientists explain the phenomenon. The effects are small. But that is not surprising, because the language reflects unconscious psychological processes that are deeply rooted in the personality and that only adapt slowly.