Article

Diplomatic Chameleons: Language Style Matching and Agreement in International Diplomatic Negotiations


Abstract

Linguistic style refers to how individuals put their words together. This study offers the first application of linguistic style analysis to international multilateral diplomatic negotiations. We hypothesize that agreement in multilateral negotiations is characterized by convergence of diplomats’ linguistic styles whereas disagreement associates with divergence of linguistic styles. We test our claim using original data from the plenary sessions of the Constitutional Convention on the Future of the European Union (2002–2003). We evaluate linguistic style convergence by linguistic style matching (LSM) using the text analysis program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). We find that linguistic style convergence among negotiators was higher in discussions on the legal personality of the European Union that ended with agreement and lower in negotiations on the definition of qualified majority voting that ended with disagreement. This study facilitates a richer understanding of how negotiators’ language use influences negotiation dynamics in international multilateral diplomacy and encourages negotiation and conflict resolution scholars and practitioners to pay attention to how diplomats express their policy position in addition to what they say.

Keywords: Linguistic Word Inquiry and Word Count, international politics, language style matching, diplomacy, negotiation

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Published on
10 Nov 2018
Peer Reviewed