8. The effect of language style in message-based HIV preventions

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A significant challenge for message-based HIV prevention and intervention campaigns is not only to determine <i>what </i>messages should be included but also<i>how </i>to deliver or design these messages (Yzer this volume). In this chapter the effect of language style (standard vs. the non-standard varieties) on source factors such as the source’s social attractiveness and expertise is examined in the context of document-mediated communication. The study was prompted by claims made by the loveLife campaign in South Africa that it speaks in a “language that young people relate to and understand” (loveLife 2003: 3). An authentic English text from loveLife was translated into Standard English and then translated by teenagers themselves into their teenager language. These three language varieties (the loveLife, Standard English and authentic teenager variety) were then examined in terms of their effect on source-receiver-similarity and liking of the language style, text enjoyment, social identity, the source’s social attractiveness and competence. The findings indicate that although participants tend to enjoy the text written in the authentic teenager variety more than the loveLife text and the Standard English text, they, surprisingly, show a greater dislike for the authentic teenager variety compared to Standard English.


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